ex·​is·​ten·​tial ˌeg-(ˌ)zi-ˈsten(t)-shəl How to pronounce existential (audio)
: of, relating to, or affirming existence
existential propositions
: grounded in existence or the experience of existence : empirical
: having being in time and space
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 Haunted by the killer’s words, the cop embarks on a dangerous solo investigation, getting closer and closer to a disturbing existential truth. Nick Vivarelli, Variety, 18 Feb. 2024 By 2021, Marty and I had concluded that Hollywood was just not up to grappling with the complexity of Oppenheimer’s story or the existential issues surrounding the dawn of the atomic age. Kai Bird, The Hollywood Reporter, 18 Feb. 2024 In a pretrial ruling that appeared to pose an existential threat to the Trump Organization, Justice Engoron moved to tear up some of Mr. Trump’s New York business certificates, suggesting that doing so would dissolve a part of the company. Alex Lemonides, New York Times, 17 Feb. 2024 This Einstein is a fervent peacenik who saw in Nazi Germany an existential threat to peace everywhere, and to Jewish people in particular. Chris Vognar, Rolling Stone, 17 Feb. 2024 The Edelman Trust Barometer reports that, in 2023, personal anxiety overtook existential threats for share of worry: 89% of respondents feared job loss more than nuclear war. Ann Kowal Smith, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024 For some brands, the vagueness could be considered an existential threat. Richard Carleton Hacker, Robb Report, 11 Feb. 2024 A lot of existential problems for DTx companies go away with a user base in the thousands and each user generating $10,000+ in annual revenue for the DTx company. Torie Bosch, STAT, 10 Feb. 2024 Regardless, a win can lift us beyond all proportion, while a loss can feel like an existential gut punch, or worse. Tim Kelleher, National Review, 10 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'existential.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Late Latin existentiālis, exsistentiālis, from existentia, exsistentia existence + Latin -ālis -al entry 1; in the 19th and 20th centuries in part as translation of Danish existentiel (later eksistentiel) & German existentiell

Note: Compare "Existentielt Indlæg" ("existential contribution") in the subtitle of Søren Kierkegaard's Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift til de philosophiske Smuler (1846; Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments), used also elsewhere in the work.

First Known Use

1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of existential was in 1656

Dictionary Entries Near existential

Cite this Entry

“Existential.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/existential. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

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