es·​sen·​tial·​ism i-ˈsen(t)-shə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce essentialism (audio)
: an educational theory that ideas and skills basic to a culture should be taught to all alike by time-tested methods compare progressivism
: a philosophical theory ascribing ultimate reality to essence embodied in a thing perceptible to the senses compare nominalism
: the practice of regarding something (such as a presumed human trait) as having innate existence or universal validity rather than as being a social, ideological, or intellectual construct
essentialist adjective or noun

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web More recently, many of these traditions are intentionally expanding to reject ideas of gender essentialism and embrace a range of identities. Alyssa Beall, USA TODAY, 13 May 2023 This sort of identity-group essentialism — in which the race and gender of the writer are more important than the writer’s reasoning and evidence — has been endemic to efforts by Hannah-Jones to dismiss critiques by the nation’s leading historians in areas of their own, but not her, expertise. Nr Editors, National Review, 17 Feb. 2022 Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e is a 70-page book of alternative rules written by D&D players that’s meant to pull the game away from racial essentialism. Matthew Gault, Wired, 31 Dec. 2020 For Gago and Majewska, biological essentialism is the enemy of mass politics; after all, in both countries, as in much of the rest of the world, the forces that conspire to repress straight cis women are also those that conspire against gay and trans people. Amia Srinivasan, The New Yorker, 6 Sep. 2021 To her that feels like gender essentialism. Kate Sosin, USA TODAY, 2 Nov. 2020 Finally, true believers in racial essentialism have always twisted scientific results to support their views. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 15 Mar. 2023 The first furry PubMed hit was this one from earlier this year, which studied ‘Biological essentialism in a stigmatized fan community’. Neuroskeptic, Discover Magazine, 26 Nov. 2014 Tied in with this essentialism is the idea that humans in particular have souls (the mind-body dichotomy), or specific seats of their being. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 26 Mar. 2013 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1927, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of essentialism was in 1927

Dictionary Entries Near essentialism

Cite this Entry

“Essentialism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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