es·​em·​plas·​tic | \ ˌe-ˌsem-ˈpla-stik How to pronounce esemplastic (audio) , -səm- \

Definition of esemplastic

: shaping or having the power to shape disparate things into a unified whole the esemplastic power of the poetic imagination— W. H. Gardner

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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. Coinages found in his other writings include "clerisy" and "psychosomatic," among others.

First Known Use of esemplastic

1817, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for esemplastic

Greek es hen into one + English plastic

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Cite this Entry

“Esemplastic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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