Definition of essence in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈesəns/


1The intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, that determines its character: conflict is the essence of drama
More example sentences
  • Her portrayal of the sexy evangelist Reno Sweeney was outstanding, catching the very essence of this character.
  • Usually the design process involves taking messy reality and isolating its abstract essence.
  • The chief aim of this inquiry has been to shed light on the nature and essence of the disagreement between the two.
quintessence, soul, spirit, nature;
core, heart, crux, nucleus, substance;
principle, fundamental quality, sum and substance, warp and woof, reality, actuality
informal nitty-gritty
1.1 Philosophy A property or group of properties of something without which it would not exist or be what it is.
Example sentences
  • Do essences (or properties in general) exist in the physical world?
  • Whereas the immediate explanation of the actuality of Aristotle's substances lay in what they were essentially, that was not the case with Avicenna's essences, for their status was that of the merely possible.
  • That is, items in all the categories are definable, so items in all the categories have essences - just as there is an essence of man, there is also an essence of white and an essence of musical.
1.2An extract or concentrate obtained from a particular plant or other matter and used for flavoring or scent.
Example sentences
  • Whip the evaporated milk until frothy and then add the jelly, cheese, vanilla essence and lemon juice.
  • The addition of two drops of vanilla essence in the glasses masked the flavour of both the beverages.
  • Cream butter and vanilla essence in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
extract, concentrate, distillate, elixir, decoction, juice, tincture;
scent, perfume, oil



in essence

Basically and without regard for peripheral details; fundamentally: in detail the class system is complex but in essence it is simple
More example sentences
  • Football, in essence, is competitive and it is important for the health of the game that it remains so.
  • Because in essence, power is getting other people to accept your interpretation of things.
  • They say that the mind works, in essence, like an enormously complicated algorithm.
essentially, basically, fundamentally, primarily, principally, chiefly, predominantly, substantially;
above all, first and foremost;
effectively, virtually, to all intents and purposes;
intrinsically, inherently

of the essence

Critically important: time will be of the essence
More example sentences
  • But with such a worrying deadline, speed is of the essence for the company.
  • I suppose I don't need to say that speed is of the essence here, but I will anyway.
  • For the critically ill or injured time may be of the essence.


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin essentia, from esse 'be'.

  • Essence comes via Old French from Latin essentia, from esse ‘to be’. An early meaning was ‘being, existence’. In alchemy it was used in the phrase fifth essence or quintessence. Alchemists believed this substance to be latent in all bodies and thus to be extractable by distillation: this probably led to essence's use for ‘an extract obtained from a plant with therapeutic qualities’, reinforced by the sense ‘indispensable quality or constituent’.

Words that rhyme with essence

acquiescence, adolescence, arborescence, coalescence, convalescence, deliquescence, effervescence, evanescence, excrescence, florescence, fluorescence, incandescence, iridescence, juvenescence, luminescence, obsolescence, opalescence, phosphorescence, pubescence, putrescence, quiescence, quintessence

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: es·sence

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