ex·​is·​ten·​tial | \ ˌeg-(ˌ)zi-ˈsten(t)-shəl How to pronounce existential (audio) , 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

Keep scrolling for more

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 The pandemic also ignited an existential crisis for the white-collar worker class. New York Times, "The Rise of the Wellness App," 17 Feb. 2021 Every time his back went out, every existential crisis. Jhumpa Lahiri, The New Yorker, "Casting Shadows," 8 Feb. 2021 The waterfront tourist center, upon its arrival in 1978, was framed as the greatest existential crisis in the city’s history — larger than an earthquake and fire that destroyed half of San Francisco in 1906. Taylor Kate Brown, SFChronicle.com, "Bay Briefing: Trying to get a vaccination? You’re far from the only one frustrated," 15 Jan. 2021 The Lloyd Center is facing an existential crisis as tenants move out. Jamie Goldberg, oregonlive, "Old Navy closing Lloyd Center store," 13 Jan. 2021 Stars can speak to the existential, emotional, interpersonal mores that guide our lives. Angelica Jade Bastién, Vulture, "The Utter Emotional Inauthenticity of Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie," 5 Feb. 2021 The third, and most unwieldy, existential issue that Vilsack’s nomination presents involves the USDA’s role in encouraging the industries under its purview to proactively address climate change. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "American Agriculture Is Broken, and Tom Vilsack Is Not the Man to Fix It," 1 Feb. 2021 While some cities in Montana have boomed in recent years, many small towns are in an existential battle. New York Times, "In Rural Montana, a Hope That Biden Will Reopen the Rails," 24 Jan. 2021 Our four-year exposure to an increasingly viral demagoguery demonstrates that those who seek power by inflaming prejudices and rejecting fact and reason pose an existential danger to our democracy. Star Tribune, "What might save us? Some say 'civics.' We say 'science.'," 27 Jan. 2021

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.

See More

First Known Use of existential

1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about existential

Time Traveler for existential

Time Traveler

The first known use of existential was in 1656

See more words from the same year

Statistics for existential

Last Updated

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Existential.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/existential. Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

More from Merriam-Webster on existential

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for existential

Britannica English: Translation of existential for Arabic Speakers

Comments on existential

What made you want to look up existential? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!