noun es·sence \ ˈe-sᵊn(t)s \
|Updated on: 5 Aug 2018

Definition of essence

1 a : 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
4 a (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

  1. The perennial debate about nature and nurture—which is the more potent shaper of the human essence?—is perennially rekindled. —Matt RidleyTime2 June 2003
  2. 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 TaltyMulatto America2003
  3. 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 RodriguezSan Jose Mercury News20 May 2003
  4. The essence of love is unselfishness.

  5. The book's illustrations capture the essence of the story.

Recent Examples of essence from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of essence

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

essence Synonyms


sum and substance, the long and short (or the long and the short);

ESSENCE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of essence for English Language Learners

  • : 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 Defined for Kids


noun es·sence \ ˈe-sᵊns \

Definition of essence for Students

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
3 : 1perfume 1

Medical Dictionary


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

Law Dictionary


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 agreement
  • United 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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