[uh-sen-shuh-liz-uh m]
noun Education.
  1. 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

First recorded in 1935–40; essential + -ism
Related formses·sen·tial·ist, noun, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for essentialist

Contemporary Examples of essentialist

  • The objection to boycotting begins with its essentialist bigotry that attacks Israel as an entity rather than Israeli policy.

    The Daily Beast logo
    McGill's Judith Butler Bungle

    Gil Troy

    May 24, 2013

British Dictionary definitions for essentialist


  1. 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
  2. the doctrine that education should concentrate on teaching basic skills and encouraging intellectual self-discipline
Derived Formsessentialist, 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

Word Origin and History for essentialist



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper