es·​sence | \ ˈe-sᵊn(t)s How to pronounce essence (audio) \

Essential Meaning of essence

1 : the basic nature of a thing : the quality or qualities that make a thing what it is The essence of love is unselfishness. The book's illustrations capture the essence of the story. Competition is the (very) essence of capitalism.
2 : a substance that contains in very strong form the special qualities (such as the taste and smell) of the thing from which it is taken essence of peppermint/lemon

Full Definition of essence

1a : the permanent as contrasted with the accidental element of being
b : the individual, real, or ultimate nature of a thing especially as opposed to its existence a painting that captures the essence of the land
c : the properties or attributes by means of which something can be placed in its proper class or identified as being what it is
2 : the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person the essence of the issue
3 : one that possesses or exhibits a quality in abundance as if in concentrated form she was the essence of punctuality
4a(1) : a constituent or derivative possessing the special qualities (as of a plant or drug) in concentrated form also : a preparation of such an essence or a synthetic substitute
(2) : a volatile substance or constituent (as of perfume)
b : odor, perfume
5 : something that exists : entity
in essence
: in or by its very nature : essentially, basically was in essence an honest person
of the essence
: of the utmost importance time is of the essence

Examples of essence in a Sentence

The perennial debate about nature and nurture—which is the more potent shaper of the human essence?—is perennially rekindled. — Matt Ridley, Time, 2 June 2003 In essence, the positivists were the first sociologists, rejecting both superstition and metaphysics and studying behavior as a natural phenomenon that could be perfected. — Stephan Talty, Mulatto America, 2003 I had come to Orange Cove on a statewide tour, looking for the essence of Latino life in a changing California and a good bowl of the Mexican stew … — Joe Rodriguez, San Jose Mercury News, 20 May 2003 The essence of love is unselfishness. The book's illustrations capture the essence of the story.
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Recent Examples on the Web New Year’s resolutions are, in essence, goals, which means they should be set like goals, not vague, wishy-washy hopes. Harry Guinness, Wired, 4 Jan. 2022 But there were also a lot of photographs with another essence that isn’t perfect — a hair askew or her makeup kind of smeared. Los Angeles Times, 4 Jan. 2022 The idea of building more homes closer together is testing the essence of suburbia — places born of a quest for living space, greenery and freedom from crowds. Washington Post, 20 Nov. 2021 Articulating your new brand includes developing a positioning statement, a brand essence, new name, brand messaging, logo and visual identity. Jim Heininger, Forbes, 11 Nov. 2021 JoJo's essence—heart-on-her-sleeve and vulnerable, with undeniable R&B influence—is pervasive on her new E.P., Trying Not to Think About It, out now. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, 8 Oct. 2021 The bottle contains a dual-phase formula: blue essence (with soothing antioxidants like turmeric) and yellow serum (a moisturizing blend with jojoba oil). Allure Editors, Allure, 17 Sep. 2021 The Glossing Detangler can be used on wet or towel-dried hair, and contains a blend of natural ingredients—like chia seeds, vegetable ceramides, lemon extract, renewable bamboo essence, and more—to power its repair and conditioning benefits. Tiffany Dodson, Harper's BAZAAR, 9 Sep. 2021 In essence, the after-meal cigarette was an important signal the meal was over. Bryant Stamford, The Courier-Journal, 6 Jan. 2022

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for essence

Middle English essencia, from Latin essentia, from esse to be — more at is

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The first known use of essence was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

21 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Essence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for essence


es·​sence | \ ˈe-sᵊns How to pronounce essence (audio) \

Kids Definition of essence

1 : the basic part of something Freedom is the essence of democracy.
2 : a substance made from a plant or drug and having its special qualities


es·​sence | \ ˈes-ᵊn(t)s How to pronounce essence (audio) \

Medical Definition of essence

1 : a substance considered to possess in high degree the predominant qualities of a natural product (as a plant or drug) from which it is extracted (as by distillation or infusion)
b : an alcoholic solution especially of an essential oil essence of peppermint
c : an artificial preparation (as an alcoholic solution of one or more esters) used especially in flavoring
d : elixir


es·​sence | \ ˈes-ᵊns How to pronounce essence (audio) \

Legal Definition of essence

1 : the real or ultimate nature of a thing : the properties that make a thing what it is his award is legitimate only so long as it draws its essence from the collective bargaining agreementUnited Steel Workers v. Enterprise Wheel and Car Corp., 363 U.S. 593 (1960) — see also essence test
2 : the predominant purpose of a thing the essence of the contract
of the essence
: of the utmost importance specifically : so material in nature that failure to satisfy its requirements constitutes a breach of contract time is of the essence

More from Merriam-Webster on essence

Nglish: Translation of essence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of essence for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about essence


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