Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something.
  • n. The most important ingredient; the crucial element.
  • n. The inherent, unchanging nature of a thing or class of things.
  • n. An extract that has the fundamental properties of a substance in concentrated form.
  • n. Such an extract in a solution of alcohol.
  • n. A perfume or scent.
  • n. One that has or shows an abundance of a quality as if highly concentrated: a neighbor who is the essence of hospitality.
  • n. Something that exists, especially a spiritual or incorporeal entity.
  • idiom in essence By nature; essentially: He is in essence a reclusive sort.
  • idiom of the essence Of the greatest importance; crucial: Time is of the essence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The inherent nature of a thing or idea.
  • n. A significant feature of something.
  • n. The concentrated form of a plant or drug obtained through a distillation process.
  • n. Fragrance, a perfume.
  • n. The true nature of anything, not accidental or illusory.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The constituent elementary notions which constitute a complex notion, and must be enumerated to define it; sometimes called the nominal essence.
  • n. The constituent quality or qualities which belong to any object, or class of objects, or on which they depend for being what they are (distinguished as real essence); the real being, divested of all logical accidents; that quality which constitutes or marks the true nature of anything; distinctive character; hence, virtue or quality of a thing, separated from its grosser parts.
  • n. Constituent substance.
  • n. A being; esp., a purely spiritual being.
  • n. The predominant qualities or virtues of a plant or drug, extracted and refined from grosser matter; or, more strictly, the solution in spirits of wine of a volatile or essential oil.
  • n. Perfume; odor; scent; or the volatile matter constituting perfume.
  • transitive v. To perfume; to scent.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The inward nature, true substance, or constitution of anything.
  • n. Hence The distinctive characteristic; that which is expressed by the definition of any term: as, the essence of a miser's character is avarice.
  • n. That part of anything which gives it its individual character or quality: as, this summary contains the essence of the book.
  • n. Existence; being.
  • n. An elementary ingredient or constituent; anything uncompounded: as, the fifth essence (that is, the fifth element in the philosophy of Aristotle, or the upper air, the other four being, in their order, earth, water, air, and fire). See quintessence.
  • n. Anything of ethereal, pure, or heavenly substance; anything immaterial.
  • n. Any kind of matter which, being an ingredient or a constituent of some better-known substance, gives it its peculiar character; an extract; especially, an oil distilled at a comparatively low temperature from a plant in which it already exists: as, essence of peppermint.
  • n. Perfume; odor; scent; also, the volatile matter constituting perfume.
  • n. Importance; moment; essentiality.
  • To perfume; scent.
  • n.
  • n. The French designation for oil of cajeput.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the central meaning or theme of a speech or literary work
  • n. any substance possessing to a high degree the predominant properties of a plant or drug or other natural product from which it is extracted
  • n. a toiletry that emits and diffuses a fragrant odor
  • n. the choicest or most essential or most vital part of some idea or experience

Etymologies

Middle English essencia and French essence, both from Latin essentia, from esse, to be, from the presumed present participle *essēns, *essent- (on the model of differentia, difference, from differēns, different-, present participle of differre, to differ), created to translate Greek ousiā (from ousa, feminine present participle of einai, to be).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French essence, from Latin essentia ("the being or essence of a thing"), from an artificial formation of esse ("to be"), to translate Ancient Greek οὐσία (ousia, "being"), from ὤν (ōn), present participle of εἰμί (eimi, "I am, exist"). (Wiktionary)

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