essence

noun
es·​sence | \ ˈe-sᵊn(t)s \

Definition of essence 

1a : the permanent as contrasted with the accidental element of being
b : the individual, real, or ultimate nature of a thing especially as opposed to its existence a painting that captures the essence of the land
c : the properties or attributes by means of which something can be placed in its proper class or identified as being what it is
2 : the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person the essence of the issue
3 : one that possesses or exhibits a quality in abundance as if in concentrated form she was the essence of punctuality
4a(1) : a constituent or derivative possessing the special qualities (as of a plant or drug) in concentrated form also : a preparation of such an essence or a synthetic substitute
(2) : a volatile substance or constituent (as of perfume)
b : odor, perfume
5 : something that exists : entity
in essence
: in or by its very nature : essentially, basically was in essence an honest person
of the essence
: of the utmost importance time is of the essence

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Examples of essence in a Sentence

The perennial debate about nature and nurture—which is the more potent shaper of the human essence?—is perennially rekindled. — Matt Ridley, Time, 2 June 2003 In essence, the positivists were the first sociologists, rejecting both superstition and metaphysics and studying behavior as a natural phenomenon that could be perfected. — Stephan Talty, Mulatto America, 2003 I had come to Orange Cove on a statewide tour, looking for the essence of Latino life in a changing California and a good bowl of the Mexican stew … — Joe Rodriguez, San Jose Mercury News, 20 May 2003 The essence of love is unselfishness. The book's illustrations capture the essence of the story.
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Recent Examples on the Web

So as not to be confused with a flower essence or homeopathic remedy, this formula is made by steeping the flowers in a blend of alcohol, water, and glycerin for roughly four weeks. Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "Meet the Eckhaus Latta–Approved Herbalist With a Prescription for Balanced Skin and Less Stress," 4 Jan. 2019 My favorite part is taking the mask off and slathering my face and hands with the leftover essence. The Editors, Marie Claire, "Marie Claire Editors Tell You Their Favorite Things You Probably Missed in 2018," 31 Dec. 2018 Apply a facial essence between two layers of moisturizer. Nuy Cho, Redbook, "12 Korean Beauty Hacks for Perfect Skin," 17 July 2018 At his best, Neruda can express in uncanny images and ordinary words something that feels like the essence of experience. Benjamin Kunkel, The New Republic, "The partisan world of Pablo Neruda," 2 July 2018 This really feels like the promise of motorcycles, distilled down to the essence of wind, road, and speed. Andrew Moseman, Popular Mechanics, "Every Kind of Bike Is Going Electric," 22 June 2018 Seasonal Signature Events All year long at Beaver Creek, there are special events that pay homage to the essence of the town—from music and culinary celebrations to rodeos and other kid-friendly attractions. Discover Magazine, "Be In the Moments, In the Mountains, Together," 22 June 2018 Hamid reminds us that kids tune in to the essence of things. Nathan Heller, The New Yorker, "The Mail," 12 June 2018 The essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. Avery Matera, Teen Vogue, "Met Gala 2019 Theme: Everything You Need to Know About "Camp: Notes on Fashion"," 11 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'essence.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of essence

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for essence

Middle English essencia, from Latin essentia, from esse to be — more at is

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Statistics for essence

Last Updated

7 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for essence

The first known use of essence was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for essence

essence

noun

English Language Learners Definition of essence

: the basic nature of a thing : the quality or qualities that make a thing what it is

: a substance that contains in very strong form the special qualities (such as the taste and smell) of the thing from which it is taken

essence

noun
es·​sence | \ ˈe-sᵊns \

Kids Definition of essence

1 : the basic part of something Freedom is the essence of democracy.
2 : a substance made from a plant or drug and having its special qualities

essence

noun
es·​sence | \ ˈes-ᵊn(t)s \

Medical Definition of essence 

1 : a substance considered to possess in high degree the predominant qualities of a natural product (as a plant or drug) from which it is extracted (as by distillation or infusion)
b : an alcoholic solution especially of an essential oil essence of peppermint
c : an artificial preparation (as an alcoholic solution of one or more esters) used especially in flavoring
d : elixir

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essence

noun
es·​sence | \ ˈes-ᵊns \

Legal Definition of essence 

1 : the real or ultimate nature of a thing : the properties that make a thing what it is his award is legitimate only so long as it draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreementUnited Steel Workers v. Enterprise Wheel and Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593 (1960) — see also essence test
2 : the predominant purpose of a thing the essence of the contract
of the essence
: of the utmost importance specifically : so material in nature that failure to satisfy its requirements constitutes a breach of contract time is of the essence

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Comments on essence

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