es·​sence ˈe-sᵊn(t)s How to pronounce essence (audio)
: the permanent as contrasted with the accidental element of being
: the individual, real, or ultimate nature of a thing especially as opposed to its existence
a painting that captures the essence of the land
: the properties or attributes by means of which something can be placed in its proper class or identified as being what it is
: the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person
the essence of the issue
: one that possesses or exhibits a quality in abundance as if in concentrated form
she was the essence of punctuality
: 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
: a volatile substance or constituent (as of perfume)
: 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

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web In essence, Peekaboo is best thought of as a shortcut that consolidates multiple steps into a single action. Steven Aquino, Forbes, 16 Mar. 2023 Klein’s point is that the depositors being made whole beyond the original $250,000 guarantee are, in essence, getting bailed out. Victor Ordonez, ABC News, 15 Mar. 2023 Kim-boy exists, in essence, as an everyman enduring the ups and downs of rural Alaskan life. David James, Anchorage Daily News, 11 Mar. 2023 In essence, this involves trading off impractical temperatures for impractical pressures. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 8 Mar. 2023 This, in essence, is reading between the generations. San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Mar. 2023 At a high level, what Hermans does—in essence, preaching calmness—is not only beneficial to parents (or anyone else, really) but can be especially helpful towards neurodiverse people. Steven Aquino, Forbes, 7 Mar. 2023 In essence, OpenAI is beginning to tip-toe into the idea of some kind of governmental entity, perhaps even an international body, licensing the training of models above a certain size. Byjeremy Kahn, Fortune, 28 Feb. 2023 That was, in essence, what set us not just on a path of absolutely hardening relations but on a path to this war. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 27 Feb. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'essence.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near essence

Cite this Entry

“Essence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


es·​sence ˈes-ən(t)s How to pronounce essence (audio)
: the basic nature of a thing : the quality or qualities that make a thing what it is
the essence of love is unselfishness
: a substance physically or chemically separated from another substance (as a plant or drug) and having the special qualities (as odor) of the original substance
essence of peppermint

Medical Definition


es·​sence ˈes-ᵊn(t)s How to pronounce essence (audio)
: 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)
: an alcoholic solution especially of an essential oil
essence of peppermint
: an artificial preparation (as an alcoholic solution of one or more esters) used especially in flavoring
: elixir

Legal Definition


es·​sence ˈes-ᵊns How to pronounce essence (audio)
: 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
: the predominant purpose of a thing
the essence of the contract

More from Merriam-Webster on essence

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