[ es-uhns ]
See synonyms for essence on
  1. the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing or its significant individual feature or features: Freedom is the very essence of our democracy.

  2. a substance obtained from a plant, drug, or the like, by distillation, infusion, etc., and containing its characteristic properties in concentrated form.

  1. an alcoholic solution of an essential oil; spirit.

  2. a perfume; scent.

  3. Philosophy. the inward nature, true substance, or constitution of anything, as opposed to what is accidental, phenomenal, illusory, etc.

  4. something that exists, especially a spiritual or immaterial entity.

Idioms about essence

  1. in essence, essentially; at bottom, often despite appearances: For all his bluster, he is in essence a shy person.

  2. of the essence, absolutely essential; critical; crucial: In chess, cool nerves are of the essence.

Origin of essence

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English essencia, from Medieval Latin, from Latin essentia, equivalent to esse + -ence

Other words for essence

Other words from essence

  • self-essence, noun

Words Nearby essence Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use essence in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for 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

  1. a perfect or complete form of something, esp a person who typifies an abstract quality: he was the essence of gentility

  2. philosophy

    • the unchanging and unchangeable nature of something which is necessary to its being the thing it is; its necessary properties: Compare accident (def. 4)

    • the properties in virtue of which something is called by its name

    • the nature of something as distinct from, and logically prior to, its existence

  3. theol an immaterial or spiritual entity

    • the constituent of a plant, usually an oil, alkaloid, or glycoside, that determines its chemical or pharmacological properties

    • an alcoholic solution of such a substance

  4. a substance, usually a liquid, containing the properties of a plant or foodstuff in concentrated form: vanilla essence

  5. a rare word for perfume

  6. in essence essentially; fundamentally

  7. of the essence indispensable; vitally important

Origin of essence

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