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

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.

First Known Use of esemplastic

1817, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for esemplastic

Greek es hen into one + English plastic

Learn More About esemplastic

Time Traveler for esemplastic

Time Traveler

The first known use of esemplastic was in 1817

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About esemplastic

Dictionary Entries Near esemplastic




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for esemplastic

Cite this Entry

“Esemplastic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!