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[uh-sen-shuh-liz-uh m] /əˈsɛn ʃəˌlɪz əm/
noun, Education
a doctrine that certain traditional concepts, ideals, and skills are essential to society and should be taught methodically to all students, regardless of individual ability, need, etc.
Compare progressivism.
Origin of essentialism
1935-40; essential + -ism
Related forms
essentialist, noun, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for essentialist
  • Most of the work here is essentialist, body-oriented and familiar to the point of old-fashioned.
  • In this essentialist view the implication is that organic diversity is imposed, rather than evolved.
  • It's ridiculous and essentialist to categorize all people who are poor as the same across multiple dimensions.
  • Please forgive whatever essentialist notions are used here.
  • Thus, a strategic approach that may incorporate the advantages of both essentialist and relational approaches should be explored.
  • Findings challenge essentialist views of partnership and highlight the constructed and discursive nature of the concept.
British Dictionary definitions for essentialist


(philosophy) one of a number of related doctrines which hold that there are necessary properties of things, that these are logically prior to the existence of the individuals which instantiate them, and that their classification depends upon their satisfaction of sets of necessary conditions
the doctrine that education should concentrate on teaching basic skills and encouraging intellectual self-discipline
Derived Forms
essentialist, noun
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 essentialist



1939, from essential + -ism. Related: Essentialist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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