es·​em·​plas·​tic ˌe-ˌsem-ˈpla-stik How to pronounce esemplastic (audio)
: shaping or having the power to shape disparate things into a unified whole
the esemplastic power of the poetic imaginationW. H. Gardner

Did you know?

"Unusual and new-coined words are, doubtless, an evil; but vagueness, confusion, and imperfect conveyance of our thoughts, are a far greater," wrote English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Biographia Literaria, 1817. True to form, in that same work, he assembled esemplastic by melding the Greek phrase es hen, meaning "into one," with plastic to fulfill his need for a word that accurately described the imagination's ability to shape disparate experiences into a unified whole (e.g., the poet's imaginative ability to communicate a variety of images, sensations, emotions, and experiences in the unifying framework of a poem). The verb intensify was another word that Coleridge was compelled to mint while writing Biographia.

Word History


Greek es hen into one + English plastic

First Known Use

1817, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of esemplastic was in 1817


Dictionary Entries Near esemplastic

Cite this Entry

“Esemplastic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

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