tran·​scen·​dent tran(t)-ˈsen-dənt How to pronounce transcendent (audio)
: exceeding usual limits : surpassing
: extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience
in Kantian philosophy : being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge
: being beyond comprehension
: transcending the universe or material existence compare immanent sense 2
: universally applicable or significant
the antislavery movement … recognized the transcendent importance of libertyL. H. Tribe
transcendently adverb

Did you know?

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.

Examples of transcendent in a Sentence

a firm belief in angels, demons, and other transcendent beings the star player's transcendent performance helped the team to a surprise victory
Recent Examples on the Web Stern has a way of turning her underdog status as a notably abrasive musician into transcendent comic relief. Jenn Pelly, Pitchfork, 9 Nov. 2023 The movie raises the idea of silence to a nearly transcendent pitch of passion. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 20 Oct. 2023 Some of the film’s most transcendent moments capture the swirl of life in Osage County, from its weddings to its family meals; many feature Mollie’s mother, Lizzie (Tantoo Cardinal), whose experiences on the brink of death are represented in stunning flights of magical realism. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 18 Oct. 2023 In a truly transcendent moment, one of them circled curiously, then dramatically swooped right under me. Shamilee Vellu, Travel + Leisure, 5 Oct. 2023 What elevates them is a transcendent performance that brings new depth, drama or nuance to the work at hand. George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Oct. 2023 Their brand was chaos: live shows that were transcendent or tragicomic depending on the drugs involved; albums that interpolated brilliant Stones-adjacent youth anthems and devastating country weepers with slapdash Kiss covers and improvised jams where no one played their actual instrument. Elizabeth Nelson, The New Yorker, 21 Sep. 2023 Schneider ultimately decided that her fear didn’t outweigh the potentially transcendent joy of achieving her lifelong goal. Christina Veta, Los Angeles Times, 30 Sep. 2023 Searching, harrowing, replete with transcendent love, the novel is a journey from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and into the fearsome heart of a Louisiana sugar plantation. Sarah Yang, Sunset Magazine, 22 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Latin transcendent-, transcendens, present participle of transcendere

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of transcendent was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near transcendent

Cite this Entry

“Transcendent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


tran·​scen·​dent tran(t)s-ˈen-dənt How to pronounce transcendent (audio)
: superior to or going beyond the usual : extraordinary
: going beyond the limits of ordinary experience

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