[tran-sen-den-tl-iz-uh m, -suh n-]


transcendental character, thought, or language.
Also called transcendental philosophy. any philosophy based upon the doctrine that the principles of reality are to be discovered by the study of the processes of thought, or a philosophy emphasizing the intuitive and spiritual above the empirical: in the U.S., associated with Emerson.

Origin of transcendentalism

From the German word Transcendentalismus, dating back to 1795–1805. See transcendental, -ism
Related formstran·scen·den·tal·ist, noun, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for transcendentalist

Contemporary Examples of transcendentalist

  • As an old story goes: The New England transcendentalist Margaret Fuller was given to exclaiming, “I accept the universe!”

    The Daily Beast logo
    Tantrum on the Court

    David Frum

    July 2, 2012

Historical Examples of transcendentalist

  • Is he not a transcendentalist, at least in the German sense of the word?

    The Book of Khalid

    Ameen Rihani

  • Yet at heart Meckel was a transcendentalist of the German school.

    Form and Function

    E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell

  • That is practical transcendentalism, and you are a transcendentalist.

  • But then he was a transcendentalist and an intellectual anarch.


    James Huneker

  • I am, moreover, to be perfectly frank, a transcendentalist on the subject of marriage.

    At Large

    Arthur Christopher Benson

British Dictionary definitions for transcendentalist



  1. any system of philosophy, esp that of Kant, holding that the key to knowledge of the nature of reality lies in the critical examination of the processes of reason on which depends the nature of experience
  2. any system of philosophy, esp that of Emerson, that emphasizes intuition as a means to knowledge or the importance of the search for the divine
vague philosophical speculation
the state of being transcendental
something, such as thought or language, that is transcendental
Derived Formstranscendentalist, noun, adjective
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 transcendentalist

1803, from transcendental + -ist.



1803, in reference to Kant, later to Schelling; 1842 in reference to the New England religio-philosophical movement; from transcendental + -ism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

transcendentalist in Culture


A movement in nineteenth-century American literature and thought. It called on people to view the objects in the world as small versions of the whole universe and to trust their individual intuitions. The two most noted American transcendentalists were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.