ex·​is·​ten·​tial | \ ˌeg-(ˌ)zi-ˈsten(t)-shəl, ˌek-(ˌ)si-\

Definition of existential

1 : of, relating to, or affirming existence existential propositions
2a : grounded in existence or the experience of existence : empirical
b : having being in time and space
3 [ translation of Danish eksistentiel & German existential ] : existentialist

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Other Words from existential

existentially adverb

Examples of existential in a Sentence

child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim believed that fairy tales help children cope with their existential anxieties and dilemmas

Recent Examples on the Web

Nightflyers is facing a similar existential crisis. Samantha Nelson, The Verge, "George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers asks whether humanity deserves to be saved," 29 Nov. 2018 The news of Justin's existential crisis shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Justin Bieber Feels "Empty and Confused" and Like "Something is Missing from His Life" After Marrying Hailey Baldwin," 5 Nov. 2018 The system is starting to perceive endemic corruption as existential threat and is seeking to at least contain it. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "As Economy Withers, Iran Imposes Harsh Crackdown on Fraud," 26 Dec. 2018 But in the face of this existential threat, cities also present the best places to curb emissions: Though urban areas generate 70 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide, that also makes them a good place to start making a difference. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "As cities confront climate change, is density the answer?," 11 Dec. 2018 Ostensibly magisterial international triumphs for the United States have repeatedly turned out to be pyrrhic victories that transformed into grave and even existential threats as people at home and abroad rushed to adapt. Caitlin Fitz, WSJ, "‘A Nation Forged by Crisis’ Review: Part of the Wider World After All," 30 Nov. 2018 An unending drumbeat of propaganda, from both official state outlets and private media empires aligned with the government, demonizes refugees and Muslims, falsely warning of an existential threat to Hungarian society and culture. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "The 2018 campaign revealed the true fissure in American democracy," 6 Nov. 2018 Happer—who also served at the Department of Energy during the George H.W. Bush administration—is better known these days as a climate contrarian willing to publicly claim that CO2 emissions are a boon rather than an existential threat. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Scientist who thinks more CO₂ is great joins National Security Council," 6 Sep. 2018 Their cupidity quickly becomes an existential threat to all of the people and things that define the city, condemning them to a subterranean life at the bottom of the void. Laura Hudson, The Verge, "Donut County is a game about swallowing Los Angeles and realizing you’re an asshole," 1 Sep. 2018

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

1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

19 Jan 2019

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The first known use of existential was in 1656

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More from Merriam-Webster on existential

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with existential

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for existential

Britannica English: Translation of existential for Arabic Speakers

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