See more 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.
  3. an alcoholic solution of an essential oil; spirit.
  4. a perfume; scent.
  5. Philosophy. the inward nature, true substance, or constitution of anything, as opposed to what is accidental, phenomenal, illusory, etc.
  6. something that exists, especially a spiritual or immaterial entity.
  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

1350–1400; Middle English essencia < Medieval Latin, for Latin essentia. See esse, -ence
Related formsself-es·sence, noun

Synonyms for essence

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for of the essence


  1. the characteristic or intrinsic feature of a thing, which determines its identity; fundamental nature
  2. the most distinctive element of a thingthe essence of a problem
  3. a perfect or complete form of something, esp a person who typifies an abstract qualityhe was the essence of gentility
  4. philosophy
    1. the unchanging and unchangeable nature of something which is necessary to its being the thing it is; its necessary propertiesCompare accident (def. 4)
    2. the properties in virtue of which something is called by its name
    3. the nature of something as distinct from, and logically prior to, its existence
  5. theol an immaterial or spiritual entity
    1. the constituent of a plant, usually an oil, alkaloid, or glycoside, that determines its chemical or pharmacological properties
    2. an alcoholic solution of such a substance
  6. a substance, usually a liquid, containing the properties of a plant or foodstuff in concentrated formvanilla essence
  7. a rare word for perfume
  8. in essence essentially; fundamentally
  9. of the essence indispensable; vitally important

Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for of the essence



late 14c., essencia (respelled late 15c. on French model), from Latin essentia "being, essence," abstract noun formed (in imitation of Greek ousia "being, essence") from essent-, present participle stem of esse "to be," from PIE *es- (cf. Sanskrit asmi, Hittite eimi, Old Church Slavonic jesmi, Lithuanian esmi, Gothic imi, Old English 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with of the essence

of the essence

Of the greatest importance, crucial, as in Time is of the essence. This idiom, which uses essence in the sense of “the most important element of something,” was first recorded in 1873, although the phrase the essence of ... was already being used in the mid-1600s.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.