es·​sen·​tial | \ i-ˈsen(t)-shəl How to pronounce essential (audio) \

Essential Meaning of essential

1 : extremely important and necessary As a fighter pilot, he knows that good vision is essential. Reservations are essential [=necessary, needed] if you plan to eat there on a Saturday.
2 : very basic : fundamental Free speech is an essential right of citizenship. The essential problem with this plan is that it will cost too much. There's no essential difference between the two products.

Full Definition of essential

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or constituting essence : inherent
2a : of the utmost importance : basic, indispensable, necessary an essential requirement for admission to college
b : being a substance that is not synthesized by the body in a quantity sufficient for normal health and growth and that must be obtained from the diet a vegetable oil rich in essential fatty acids — see also essential amino acid — compare nonessential sense 2
3 : idiopathic essential disease essential hypertension



Definition of essential (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something basic the essentials of astronomy
2 : something necessary, indispensable, or unavoidable

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Other Words from essential


essentialness \ i-​ˈsen(t)-​shəl-​nəs How to pronounce essential (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for essential


essential, fundamental, vital, cardinal mean so important as to be indispensable. essential implies belonging to the very nature of a thing and therefore being incapable of removal without destroying the thing itself or its character. conflict is essential in drama fundamental applies to something that is a foundation without which an entire system or complex whole would collapse. fundamental principles of algebra vital suggests something that is necessary to a thing's continued existence or operation. cut off from vital supplies cardinal suggests something on which an outcome turns or depends. a cardinal rule in buying a home

Examples of essential in a Sentence

Adjective As a fighter pilot, he knows that good vision is essential. Free speech is an essential right of citizenship. The essential problem with this plan is that it will cost too much. There's no essential difference between the two products. Noun the essentials for success include a willingness to work and the right attitude this will be just an introduction to the essentials of computer programming
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Some facts that might be helpful to know early on are only revealed in later chapters, while other, less essential information is repeated more than once. Nancy Lord, Anchorage Daily News, 18 Sep. 2021 Fetterman has made cannabis legalization an essential element of his campaign, decrying the arrests and incarceration that have plagued the lives of millions of ordinary people over a plant. A.j. Herrington, Forbes, 17 Sep. 2021 Home building and other construction projects were declared essential work early in the pandemic and did not experience significant work stoppages. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Sep. 2021 Professionals and technology workers who can operate from home have kept their jobs, as have workers classified as essential, such as grocery clerks and warehouse packers. Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times, 17 Sep. 2021 Since 2014, refugees and migrants have fled Venezuela to escape violence and insecurity as well as shortages of food, medicine and essential services. Stephanie García,, 17 Sep. 2021 Susan Griffin-Black, who founded the $80 million company in 1995 hand-pouring essential oils in a Potrero Hill garage with Brad Black, her then-husband, is still co-CEO with Black, although they are now divorced. Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle, 16 Sep. 2021 But the obscure Taiwanese company makes an essential component for chipmaking that has become the latest bottleneck for automakers and electronics companies suffering from semiconductor shortages. Takashi Mochizuki, Fortune, 16 Sep. 2021 For his part, Rocky credits Linnetz’s work for keeping him cozy and evoking the sense of playfulness that is an essential element of American style. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, 16 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This Avene Spring Water is an essential for summer and especially in the subway. Sarah Han, Allure, 9 Aug. 2021 The first essential is, of course, not to read The Faery Queen. Catherine Nicholson, The New York Review of Books, 1 July 2021 Oversized jean jackets and dresses made for layering are sure to stick around, as are cardigan sweaters, an always fashionable essential that goes with just about everything. Lauren Rearick,, 19 Aug. 2021 Cutting boards are a kitchen essential, and the best ones offer up a durable surface for all your slicing, dicing, and chopping needs. Shayna Murphy, USA TODAY, 12 May 2021 Most at-home cooks use their mixing bowls frequently, if not daily, and depend on this kitchen essential to hold batters, sauces, and dough. Gina Vaynshteyn, Glamour, 22 July 2021 Along with major markdowns on basic household needs like toilet paper, there are ridiculously good deals on the ultimate indoor essential: air purifiers. Braelyn Wood,, 21 June 2021 With working from home still, easy dressing is still very much an essential. Felicity Carter, Forbes, 7 June 2021 Another packing list essential, especially in the summer: a pair of athletic shorts. Madison Flager, Condé Nast Traveler, 12 July 2021

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for essential

Time Traveler

The first known use of essential was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near essential



essential amino acid

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Last Updated

21 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Essential.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for essential


es·​sen·​tial | \ i-ˈsen-shəl How to pronounce essential (audio) \

Kids Definition of essential

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : extremely important or necessary It is essential that we all meet here.
2 : forming or belonging to the basic part of something Free speech is an essential right of citizenship.

Other Words from essential

essentially adverb



Kids Definition of essential (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that is basic or necessary I packed the bare essentials for the trip.


es·​sen·​tial | \ i-ˈsen-chəl How to pronounce essential (audio) \

Medical Definition of essential

1 : being, relating to, or containing an essence an essential odor
2 : being a substance that is not synthesized by the body in a quantity sufficient for normal health and growth and that must be obtained from the diet The body converts linoleic acid—an essential fatty acid that makes up 60 percent of corn oil—into arachidonic acid.— Janet Raloff, Science News, 24 June 1989 — see essential amino acid — compare nonessential
3 : having no obvious or known cause : idiopathic essential disease

More from Merriam-Webster on essential

Nglish: Translation of essential for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of essential for Arabic Speakers


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