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

Examples of essentialism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Over the last decade or so, ethnic identity, at least among the internet literati, has been governed by a certain essentialism that holds that culture is biologically ordained by blood. Jp Brammer, Los Angeles Times, 23 Jan. 2024 At the time, accusations of narcissism, essentialism, and pandering to men’s baser instincts were lobbed against them, even by some feminist critics, while mainstream critics, gallerists, museum curators, and collectors tended to ignore or devalue their work. Leslie Camhi, The New Yorker, 6 Dec. 2023 But in a culture that became more and more ironic and street savvy, and less inclined to the kinds of gender essentialism Chicago promoted, her work’s almost painful sincerity began to count against her. Sebastian Smee, Washington Post, 18 Oct. 2023 A lot of our answers came from essentialism, the Plato and Aristotle thing. Los Angeles Times, 22 Mar. 2021 The essentialism examined in Descarte's Baby is being taken for another spin, though with a more precise focus. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 26 June 2010 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

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 24 Jun. 2024.

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