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[es-uh ns] /ˈɛs əns/
the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing or its significant individual feature or features:
Freedom is the very essence of our democracy.
a substance obtained from a plant, drug, or the like, by distillation, infusion, etc., and containing its characteristic properties in concentrated form.
an alcoholic solution of an essential oil; spirit.
a perfume; scent.
Philosophy. the inward nature, true substance, or constitution of anything, as opposed to what is accidental, phenomenal, illusory, etc.
something that exists, especially a spiritual or immaterial entity.
in essence, essentially; at bottom, often despite appearances:
For all his bluster, he is in essence a shy person.
of the essence, absolutely essential; critical; crucial:
In chess, cool nerves are of the essence.
1350-1400; Middle English essencia < Medieval Latin, for Latin essentia. See esse, -ence
Related forms
self-essence, noun
1. substance, spirit, lifeblood, heart, principle, soul, core. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for essences
  • Many people prefer to keep their essences to themselves.
  • In essences derivatives made more money available to lend out, to wit, increased the money supply.
  • Countless websites sell essences and other raw materials for a few dollars each, shipping them quickly by mail.
  • Shorter's conception has grown more poetic as his musical gestures have approached essences.
  • The volatile essences which make literature cannot survive the clichés of a long series of story conferences.
  • Abundant release has given way to a slow hoarding of essences.
  • Humans have an intuition about essences, and the idea of evolution contravenes our expectation of invariant essences.
  • essences can act as a rough guide to organizing the world.
  • These meridians are not based on science and are a hold over from old school ideas of life essences in the body.
  • But commonwealths are not physical, but moral essences.
British Dictionary definitions for essences


the characteristic or intrinsic feature of a thing, which determines its identity; fundamental nature
the most distinctive element of a thing: the essence of a problem
a perfect or complete form of something, esp a person who typifies an abstract quality: he was the essence of gentility
  1. the unchanging and unchangeable nature of something which is necessary to its being the thing it is; its necessary properties Compare accident (sense 4)
  2. the properties in virtue of which something is called by its name
  3. the nature of something as distinct from, and logically prior to, its existence
(theol) an immaterial or spiritual entity
  1. the constituent of a plant, usually an oil, alkaloid, or glycoside, that determines its chemical or pharmacological properties
  2. an alcoholic solution of such a substance
a substance, usually a liquid, containing the properties of a plant or foodstuff in concentrated form: vanilla essence
a rare word for perfume
in essence, essentially; fundamentally
of the essence, indispensable; vitally important
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin essentia, from Latin: the being (of something), from esse to be
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for essences



late 14c., essencia (respelled late 15c. on French model), from Latin essentia "being, essence," abstract noun formed (in imitation of Greek ousia "being, essence") from essent-, present participle stem of esse "to be," from PIE *es- (cf. Sanskrit asmi, Hittite eimi, Old Church Slavonic jesmi, Lithuanian esmi, Gothic imi, Old English eom "I am;" see be). Originally "substance of the Trinity," the general sense of "basic element of anything" is first recorded in English 1650s, though this is the base meaning of the first English use of essential.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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