es·​sence | \ ˈe-sᵊn(t)s How to pronounce essence (audio) \

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)
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 Extremists in Afghanistan, in essence, control both sides of that equation — keeping up the violence to help their position in talks now, while holding to their goal of a return to an unbending Islamic rule later. Mujib Mashal, New York Times, "Her Study Center Was Bombed. She Still Topped Afghanistan’s National University Exam.," 25 Sep. 2020 Right-hander Freddy Peralta figured prominently in the Brewers' plans for that doubleheader, with one of the games figuring to be a bullpen game, in essence. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Josh Lindblom has sharpened his game entering his big start for the Brewers Friday," 24 Sep. 2020 These questions were, in essence, the wireframe of the human judgment that would become the AI's smarts. Clive Thompson, Wired, "YouTube’s Plot to Silence Conspiracy Theories," 18 Sep. 2020 In essence, a publisher cannot be held responsible for the content that a user posts online. Carly Ortiz-lytle, Washington Examiner, "Marsha Blackburn vows to reform law shielding Big Tech from accountability for censoring viewpoints," 17 Sep. 2020 In essence, the study argues that gas is an essential bridge as nuclear power, carbon capture, and renewables become economical in the coming decades. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "The Biden Adviser Who Gives Climate Activists Nightmares," 15 Sep. 2020 The Yeti Nano is, in essence, a smaller and more affordable version of Blue’s popular Yeti microphone. Corey Gaskin And Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "The Ars Technica ultimate buying guide for your home office setup," 11 Sep. 2020 For example, Apple’s FaceID, which uses facial recognition so users can unlock their iPhone, recently released a system update that can, in essence, detect when a person is wearing a mask. National Geographic, "Face-mask recognition has arrived—for better or worse," 11 Sep. 2020 In essence, the Labor Day holiday served as an important test of the ability of government to strike a balance between maintaining the public’s health while reviving local economies pummeled by COVID-19. David Lyons,, "Florida’s daily COVID-19 case total dips to 1,838," 7 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for essence

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for essence

Last Updated

29 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Essence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for essence


How to pronounce essence (audio)

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


es·​sence | \ ˈe-sᵊns How to pronounce essence (audio) \

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


es·​sence | \ ˈes-ᵊn(t)s How to pronounce essence (audio) \

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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es·​sence | \ ˈes-ᵊns How to pronounce essence (audio) \

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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