View synonyms for existential


[ eg-zi-sten-shuhl, ek-si- ]


  1. of or relating to existence:

    Does climate change pose an existential threat to humanity?

  2. of, relating to, or characteristic of philosophical existentialism; concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by the individual's freely made choices.


/ ˌɛɡzɪˈstɛnʃəl /


  1. of or relating to existence, esp human existence
  2. philosophy pertaining to what exists, and is thus known by experience rather than reason; empirical as opposed to theoretical
  3. logic denoting or relating to a formula or proposition asserting the existence of at least one object fulfilling a given condition; containing an existential quantifier
  4. of or relating to existentialism


    1. an existential statement or formula

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Derived Forms

  • ˌexisˈtentially, adverb

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Other Words From

  • exis·tential·ly adverb
  • nonex·is·tential adjective
  • nonex·is·tential·ly adverb
  • unex·is·tential adjective
  • unex·is·tential·ly adverb

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Word History and Origins

Origin of existential1

First recorded in 1685–95, existential is from the Late Latin word existentiālis “relating to existing”; existence, -al 1

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Example Sentences

Of course, considering how high the existential stakes seem to be in this election, it’s not out of the question that Biden might be the one who disputes the result.

Continued uncertainty about safety has become an existential threat for individual airlines, and is expected to upend the airline industry as we know it.

From Fortune

Failure to extend the search deal with Google could have been a potentially existential blow to Mozilla, which has laid off 320 employees since the beginning of the year.

We thought it may go away with the existential crises civilization is facing, but it is definitely a story of City Hall management failure and massive waste of taxpayer funds.

Under the right conditions, universal human traits like in-group favoritism, existential anxiety and a desire for stability and control combine into a toxic, system-justifying identity politics.

I often find myself in the toy aisle, having an existential crisis.

A creeping sense develops that Judy fled not just a stifling culture but a genuine existential threat.

Albert Camus used violence as a means of exploring meaning, or lack thereof, in his existential novels.

No one wants to go through life in a state of moral and existential ambiguity.

I had no interest in exploring the philosophical or existential layers of a cartoon show.

It is therefore necessary to differentiate between the Substance of Christianity and its Existential-form.

This distinction of indication as existential and implication as conceptual or essential, I owe to Mr. Alfred Sidgwick.

Meinong insists upon an existential judgment, a judgment that the object valued is real, as essential to value.

They are questions of the existential setting of certain logical distinctions and relations.

One passes at will from existential connexions of things to logical relationship of terms.


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More About Existential

What does existential mean?

Existential is an adjective meaning “relating to existence,” but what does that even mean? What does anything mean? What is our purpose in the universe? These are existential questions.

Existential is often used in relation to existentialism, a philosophical movement that suggests that existence (life, the universe, and everything) has no meaning except for the meaning that individuals create for themselves. Existential is also often used to describe a scenario in which someone or something’s very existence or being is threatened or in question, especially in phrases like existential threat. 

Example: Though unlikely, an asteroid strike would be an existential threat to the planet.

Where does existential come from?

Existential is the adjective form of existence. Existential, existence, and exist all ultimately derive from the Latin verb ex(s)istere, meaning “to exist, appear, emerge.” The first records of existential in English come from the 1600s.

By the 1800s and 1900s, the use of existential had gained importance in philosophy of existentialism. Philosophers and writers like Sören Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, and Albert Camus tangled with questions of existence. People who subscribe to this philosophy are called existentialists. They often come to the conclusion that life has no meaning by itself, and that since humans have the freedom to make their own choices, they have the responsibility to do so and to give meaning to life. Of course, that’s a big responsibility, and existentialism often deals with the existential anxiety and fear that come with it, especially in the face of mortality—that fact that one day our existence will end.

Relatedly, but less philosophically and more practically, existential is applied to situations that threaten to wipe something out, such as a species, as in Poaching poses an existential threat to elephants. It is also used in cases where someone has big questions about who they are, as in After getting fired from my dream job, I’m having an existential crisis.

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How is existential used in real life?

Existential is frequently used in the context of the philosophy of existentialism. In everyday speech, it’s generally applied to situations in which something’s existence is at stake or when reflecting on deep human problems. It is often used to modify words like angst, threat, crisis, and question.



Try using existential!

Is existential used correctly in the following sentence?

This philosophy course is intended to tackle a lot of existential questions, like what it means to be human.