verb ex·ist \ ig-ˈzist \
Updated on: 14 Feb 2018

Definition of exist

intransitive verb
1 a : to have real being whether material or spiritual
  • did unicorns exist
  • the largest galaxy known to exist
b : to have being in a specified place or with respect to understood limitations or conditions
  • strange ideas existed in his mind
2 : to continue to be
  • racism still exists in society
3 a : to have life or the functions of vitality
  • we cannot exist without oxygen
b : to live at an inferior level or under adverse circumstances
  • the hungry existing from day to day

Examples of exist in a Sentence

  1. She believes that ghosts really do exist.

  2. It's the largest galaxy known to exist.

  3. Does life exist on Mars?

  4. The Internet didn't exist then.

  5. We shouldn't ignore the problems that exist in our own community.

  6. Racism still exists in our society.

  7. The organization may soon cease to exist if more funding isn't provided.

Recent Examples of exist from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'exist.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of exist

Latin exsistere to come into being, exist, from ex- + sistere to stand, stop; akin to Latin stare to stand — more at stand

EXIST Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of exist for English Language Learners

  • : to have actual being : to be real

  • : to continue to be or to live

EXIST Defined for Kids


verb ex·ist \ ig-ˈzist \

Definition of exist for Students

existed; existing
1 : to have actual being : be real
  • Do unicorns exist?
2 : to be found : occur
  • Problems exist in every neighborhood.
3 : to continue to live
  • She barely earned enough to exist.

Word Root of exist

The Latin word sistere, meaning “to stand,” “to appear,” “to stop,” or “to put,” gives us the root sist. Words from the Latin sistere have something to do with standing, appearing, stopping, or putting. To assist, or help, is to stand by someone in order to give aid. To consist is to be made up of a number of thing put together. To exist, or have actual being, is to appear real. To persist is to refuse to stop doing or saying something.

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