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

  • adj. Of or relating to the foundation or base; elementary: the fundamental laws of the universe.
  • adj. Forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure; central: an example that was fundamental to the argument.
  • adj. Of great significance or entailing major change: a book that underwent fundamental revision.
  • adj. Physics Of or relating to the component of lowest frequency of a periodic wave or quantity.
  • adj. Physics Of or relating to the lowest possible frequency of a vibrating element or system.
  • adj. Music Having the root in the bass: a fundamental chord.
  • n. Something that is an essential or necessary part of a system or object.
  • n. Music The first harmonic in a harmonic series; the lowest harmonic.
  • n. Physics The lowest frequency of a periodically varying quantity or of a vibrating system.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A leading or primary principle, rule, law, or article, which serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part, as, the fundamentals of linear algebra.
  • adj. Pertaining to the foundation or basis; serving for the foundation. Hence: Essential, as an element, principle, or law; important; original; elementary; as, a fundamental truth; a fundamental axiom.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Pertaining to the foundation or basis; serving for the foundation.
  • n. A leading or primary principle, rule, law, or article, which serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part, .

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Pertaining to the foundation; serving as or being a component part of a foundation or basis; hence, essential; important; original; elementary: as, a fundamental truth or principle; a. fundamental law.
  • See fundamental, n., 2.
  • The low tone generated by the tones of a chord. Also called fundamental note.
  • n. A leading or primary principle, rule, law, or article, which serves as the groundwork of a system; an essential part: as, the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
  • n. In music: The root of a chord.
  • n. The generator of a series of harmonics. Also called fundamental bass, note, or tone.

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

  • n. the lowest tone of a harmonic series
  • adj. far-reaching and thoroughgoing in effect especially on the nature of something
  • n. any factor that could be considered important to the understanding of a particular business
  • adj. serving as an essential component
  • adj. being or involving basic facts or principles


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Late Latin fundamentalis, from Latin fundamentum ("foundation"), from fundare ("to lay the foundation (of something), to found"), from fundus ("bottom")


  • Here we join issue with those Socialist writers who advocate the endowment of motherhood and give it their own meaning; and that is why in a preceding paragraph the word fundamental has been emphasized, since in the endowment of motherhood as understood by socialists there are two principles, one which I call fundamental, and a second -- that the endowment shall be by the State -- which now falls to be considered.

    Woman and Womanhood A Search for Principles

  • There's no real harm in the use of the term fundamental in this context, but this is about where the word gets elevated beyond its usefulness and starts becoming a hurdle to progress, and then a barrier.


  • But, of course, the danger in messing with anything this fundamental is the possibility of royally screwing things up.

    Creating depth in fantasy worlds: Let your people be people «

  • Brian Katulis, a national security expert at the Center for American Progress, said he is worried that members of the Obama administration have lost sight of what he calls the fundamental question: "Are we actually keeping Americans safe?"

    Why Petraeus Can't Make The Sale

  • As though in tandem, Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Breyer recited what they called a fundamental principle: that the public must be able to understand what a criminal law means.

    James D. Zirin: What Are Honest Services?

  • In places like Cleveland and Detroit, Donovan is planning what he called a fundamental rethinking of land use.

    HUD Announces Additional Funds To Fight Foreclosures

  • Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky challenged us to "go to the mountain" -- as we have for education and voting rights -- to ensure health care for all, which he called a fundamental human right.

    Personal Tragedies Show Need for Health Care Reform: Video of "Congressional Send-Off Rally" in L.A.

  • Both the decisions accorded the principle of equality for women, which they termed a fundamental principle, much less than a hegemony in this balance.

    Equality, Religion and Gender in Israel.

  • He says he's upset because he says they violated what he calls a fundamental rule of life.

    CNN Transcript Jun 11, 2008

  • She promised what she called a fundamental break with Liberia's violent past, a 14-year civil war.

    CNN Transcript Jan 16, 2006


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  • People always wonder why I chuckle when they call themselves "fundamental Christians."

    March 15, 2008

  • A word beloved of bores seeking to pad out their prattle. To me it just means "of the arse".

    March 14, 2008