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

Essential Meaning of essence

1 : the basic nature of a thing : the quality or qualities that make a thing what it is The essence of love is unselfishness. The book's illustrations capture the essence of the story. Competition is the (very) essence of capitalism.
2 : 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 of peppermint/lemon

Full 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

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 Its joyful essence is captured in the above music video, a dizzying display of color and light. Billboard Staff, Billboard, 5 Nov. 2021 Some of Rogers' family members were at the ceremony and told CNN affiliate WESH that the sculpture captured his essence. David Williams, CNN, 30 Oct. 2021 As the work reduced dances to their essence, the dancers brought something else to the stage: themselves. New York Times, 29 Oct. 2021 The Exorcist — The gold standard of horror distills the battle between good and evil down to its bare essence, a child possessed and faithless priest, maybe right next door. Mark Hughes, Forbes, 29 Oct. 2021 My favorite thing is the eggplant curry, which is eggplant stewed down to its essence with onions. Emma Alpern, Curbed, 5 Oct. 2021 Physicists since Svante Arrhenius in 1896 have strived to strip down Earth’s climate to its essence. Quanta Magazine, 5 Oct. 2021 Terrorism, at its essence, is a form of symbolic but deadly violence used to communicate a political message. Arie Perliger, Quartz, 20 Aug. 2021 At its essence, skating is a form of expression, says Ms. Sablone. Noah Robertson, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 Aug. 2021

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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Last Updated

29 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Essence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2021.

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More Definitions for essence


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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on essence

Nglish: Translation of essence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of essence for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about essence


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