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 Mussolini’s Motherhood Factories In fascist Italy, childbirth, breastfeeding and motherhood were given a hybrid structure of industrial management and eugenicist biological essentialism. JSTOR Daily, 24 June 2024 Request a Demo Rorty’s version of redemption stands out against certain religious strands in that it is explicitly set against predestination or essentialism. Big Think, 14 June 2024 In recent decades, though, milk consumption has rapidly declined while nutritionists have increasingly come to question milk essentialism. Kenny Torrella, Vox, 31 May 2024 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

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 14 Jul. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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