in essence


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

self-essence, noun

1. substance, spirit, lifeblood, heart, principle, soul, core. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
essence (ˈɛsəns)
1.  the characteristic or intrinsic feature of a thing, which determines its identity; fundamental nature
2.  the most distinctive element of a thing: the essence of a problem
3.  a perfect or complete form of something, esp a person who typifies an abstract quality: he was the essence of gentility
4.  philosophy
 a.  Compare accident the unchanging and unchangeable nature of something which is necessary to its being the thing it is; its necessary properties
 b.  the properties in virtue of which something is called by its name
 c.  the nature of something as distinct from, and logically prior to, its existence
5.  theol an immaterial or spiritual entity
6.  a.  the constituent of a plant, usually an oil, alkaloid, or glycoside, that determines its chemical or pharmacological properties
 b.  an alcoholic solution of such a substance
7.  a substance, usually a liquid, containing the properties of a plant or foodstuff in concentrated form: vanilla essence
8.  a rare word for perfume
9.  in essence essentially; fundamentally
10.  of the essence indispensable; vitally important
[C14: from Medieval Latin essentia, from Latin: the being (of something), from esse to be]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., from L. essentia "being, essence," abstract n. formed in imitation of Gk. ousia "being, essence" (from on, gen. ontos, prp. of einai "to be"), from prp. stem of esse "to be," from PIE *es- (cf. Skt. asmi, Hittite eimi, O.C.S. jesmi, Lith. esmi, Goth. imi, O.E. 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 (mid-14c.).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

in essence

Basically, by nature, as in He is in essence a very private person or In essence, they were asking the wrong question. This term employs essence in the sense of "intrinsic nature," a usage dating from the mid-1600s.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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