es·​sen·​tial·​ism | \ i-ˈsen(t)-shə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce essentialism (audio) \

Definition of essentialism

1 : an educational theory that ideas and skills basic to a culture should be taught to all alike by time-tested methods — compare progressivism
2 : a philosophical theory ascribing ultimate reality to essence embodied in a thing perceptible to the senses — compare nominalism
3 : 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

Other Words from essentialism

essentialist \ i-​ˈsen(t)-​shə-​list How to pronounce essentialism (audio) \ adjective or noun

Examples of essentialism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web At the very least, Yellowjackets—a superb Showtime thriller that riffs on Flies without repeating it—suggests the author’s benevolent gender essentialism might have been a mistake. Judy Berman, Time, 5 Nov. 2021 In recent months, lawmakers in 24 states have introduced, and six have enacted, legislation banning public schools from promoting critical race theory’s core concepts, including race essentialism, collective guilt and racial superiority. Christopher F. Rufo, WSJ, 27 June 2021 This has often resulted in perpetuating ideas about racial essentialism rather than questioning how race is constantly constructed. Kerri Greenidge, The New Republic, 14 June 2021 That bears repeating: To undo the racial essentialism of D&D would drastically alter the character of the game. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, 24 Jan. 2021 Now Over the years, however, D&D has made only trivial movements away from racial essentialism. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, 24 Jan. 2021 According to Walker, racial essentialism is built into D&D’s DNA, and its recent push for a racial reckoning is a long time coming. Matthew Gault, Wired, 31 Dec. 2020 In the writing process, Docter delved into research on essentialism, nihilism and existentialism to better articulate the plight of his characters. Los Angeles Times, 24 Dec. 2020 In January, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of British Columbia published a study showing how taking a DNA test could influence a person’s belief in race essentialism, or the idea that racial differences are innate. Caitlin Harrington, Wired, 2 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'essentialism.' 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 essentialism

1927, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of essentialism was in 1927

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Dictionary Entries Near essentialism

essential clause



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Cite this Entry

“Essentialism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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