from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The intrinsic or indispensable quality or qualities that serve to characterize or identify something.
  • noun The inherent, unchanging nature of a thing or class of things.
  • noun The most important part or aspect of something.
  • noun An extract that has the fundamental properties of a substance in concentrated form.
  • noun Such an extract in a solution of alcohol.
  • noun A perfume or scent.
  • noun One that has or shows an abundance of a quality as if highly concentrated.
  • noun Something that exists, especially a spiritual or incorporeal entity.
  • idiom (in essence) By nature; essentially.
  • idiom (of the essence) Of the greatest importance; crucial.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To perfume; scent.
  • noun The inward nature, true substance, or constitution of anything.
  • noun Hence The distinctive characteristic; that which is expressed by the definition of any term: as, the essence of a miser's character is avarice.
  • noun That part of anything which gives it its individual character or quality: as, this summary contains the essence of the book.
  • noun Existence; being.
  • noun 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.
  • noun Anything of ethereal, pure, or heavenly substance; anything immaterial.
  • noun 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.
  • noun Perfume; odor; scent; also, the volatile matter constituting perfume.
  • noun Importance; moment; essentiality.
  • noun The French designation for oil of cajeput.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The constituent elementary notions which constitute a complex notion, and must be enumerated to define it; sometimes called the nominal essence.
  • noun 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.
  • noun Constituent substance.
  • noun A being; esp., a purely spiritual being.
  • noun 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.
  • noun Perfume; odor; scent; or the volatile matter constituting perfume.
  • transitive verb To perfume; to scent.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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


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

[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); see es- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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").


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