Definition of transcendent
- the antislavery movement … recognized the transcendent importance of liberty
- —L. H. Tribe
a firm belief in angels, demons, and other transcendent beings
the star player's transcendent performance helped the team to a surprise victory
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The Latin verb scandere means "to climb", so transcend has the basic meaning of climbing so high that you cross some boundary. A transcendent experience is one that takes you out of yourself and convinces you of a larger life or existence; in this sense, it means something close to "spiritual". The American writers and thinkers known as the Transcendentalists, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, believed in the unity of all creation, the basic goodness of humankind, and the superiority of spiritual vision over mere logic. When we speak of the transcendent importance of an issue such as climate change, we may mean that everything else on earth actually depends on it.
First Known Use: 15th centurySee Words from the same year
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having a quality expressive of sadness
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