The Meaning of Essence: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of essence? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word essence, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word essence mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as other dictionaries like Collins English Dictionary and American Heritage, the word essence is a noun that refers to the individual or ultimate nature of something as opposed to its existence. This could be the most significant element, quality, or aspect of some person or thing, or someone that possesses or exhibits said quality in abundance, like a concentrate. The word essence implies an essential part and unchanging nature of a thing or person, a vital part of some idea or immaterial entity, or the predominant qualities or central meaning of someone or something. These indispensable qualities never change. The word essence is also used to refer to oils or constituents that are derived from a plant, such as an essential oil, infusion, scent, odor or perfume. Essences like a French essence take the predominant qualities of a plant and complete a distillation process to break this down to its true substance. This natural product can be used for scent or flavour. You may hear the word essence in the phrases in essence or of the essence. Essence is discussed in literary work and theology by Aristotle. The pronunciation of essence is ˈɛsəns. The adjective form of essence is essential.

Many different languages also contain words that mean essence. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to the word essence. These are called cognates, which are usually formed when two words have the same root or language of origin. This list of translations of essence is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Swahili: mchakato‎
  •  Italian: essenza‎ (fem.)
  •  Czech: esence‎ (fem.)
  •  Estonian: olemus‎
  •  Roman: bit‎ (fem.), suština‎ (fem.)
  •  Cyrillic: бит‎ (masc.), суштина‎ (fem.)
  •  Uzbek: mohiyat‎
  •  Hungarian: lényeg‎
  •  Japanese: 本質‎ (ほんしつ, honshitsu)
  •  Danish: essens‎ (common)
  •  Dutch: essentie‎
  •  Ukrainian: су́тність‎ (fem.), суть‎ (fem.)
  •  Maori: tino‎
  •  Azeri: cövhər‎, mahiyyət‎
  •  Portuguese: essência‎ (fem.)
  •  Swedish: essens‎ (common)
  •  Macedonian: суштина‎ (fem.)
  •  Latin: substantia‎ (fem.)
  •  Polish: esencja‎ (fem.)
  •  Bulgarian: съ̀щност‎ (fem.)
  •  Russian: су́щность‎ (fem.), суть‎ (fem.)
  •  Armenian: էություն‎
  •  Turkish: cevher‎
  •  Hebrew: מַהוּת‎
  •  Mandarin: 本質‎, 本质‎ (běnzhì, běnzhí)
  •  Slovene: bistvo‎ (neut.)
  •  Georgian: არსი‎, დედაარსი‎, რაობა‎
  •  Slovak: esencia‎ (fem.)
  •  Sorani: جه‌وهه‌ر‎
  •  Belarusian: су́тнасць‎ (fem.), суць‎ (fem.)
  •  Tajik: ҷавҳар‎
  •  French: essence‎ (fem.)
  •  Persian: جوهر‎ (jowhar)
  •  Spanish: esencia‎ (fem.)
  •  Catalan: bessó‎ (masc.)
  •  German: Wesen‎ (neut.)
  •  Korean: 본질‎
  •  Maltese: essenza‎ (fem.)
  •  Vietnamese: bản chất‎
  •  Finnish: olemus‎, perusolemus‎, villakoiran ydin‎
  •  Arabic: جَوْهَر‎ (masc.)

How can the word essence be used in a sentence?

The word essence can be used in many different ways to refer to both the predominant properties of a plant or the inward nature or intrinsic nature of a thing or person. Below are examples of essence.

The chef put a few drops of vanilla essence into one of her famous elixirs. Not only did the foodstuff taste amazing, it had healing properties in the essences.

The speaker wanted to make sure his essence of hospitality and essence of gentility was coming across in his speech. He asked his wife to tell him what she thought the theme of a speech he was writing would be.

The nub of a story that the boy told only showed one perspective, but the essence of the story was the opposite, in actuality. 

What are synonyms and antonyms of essence?

There are many different words that a person can choose to use in place of the word essence. These are called synonyms, which have the same definition as another word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your English language vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word essence is provided by Thesaurus

  •  basis
  •  fundamentals
  •  substance
  •  character
  •  be-all and end-all
  •  gist
  •  nub
  •  heart
  •  quality
  •  vein
  •  stuff
  •  backbone
  •  form
  •  structure
  •  nucleus
  •  name of game
  •  base
  •  quintessence
  •  extract
  •  pith
  •  chief constituent
  •  nitty-gritty
  •  lifeblood
  •  constitution
  •  meaning
  •  soul
  •  crux
  •  life
  •  core
  •  reality
  •  bottom
  •  nature
  •  bottom line
  •  essentiality
  •  point
  •  marrow
  •  meat
  •  property
  •  kernel
  •  principle
  •  attribute
  •  main idea
  •  being
  •  fiber
  •  significance
  •  aspect
  •  timber
  •  virtuality
  •  root
  •  burden
  •  grain
  •  caliber
  •  element
  •  germ
  •  essentia
  •  quiddity
  •  entity
  •  spirit

There are also a number of words that have the opposite meaning of essence. These opposite words are called antonyms. Learning antonyms is another quick and easy way to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms is also provided by Thesaurus.

  •  cover
  •  shell
  •  face
  •  external
  •  surface
  •  finish
  •  exteriority
  •  coating
  •  polish
  •  aspect
  •  superficies
  •  covering
  •  skin
  •  rind
  •  appearance
  •  outside
  •  facade
  •  superstratum
  •  exterior

What is the origin of the word essence?

According to Etymonline, the word essence has been used since the late 14th century in Middle English as essencia. It was later respelled in the late 15th century on the French model of differentia, from differēns, the present participle of differre. This word comes from the Latin essencia and Medieval Latin essentia, from the Greek ousiā/ousa or Greek ousia. This comes from the root essent or essēns, which is the present participle of the word esse, a Latin verb meaning to be, from the Proto-Indo-European root es meaning to be. Related words include essential. The word essence and essential were first used to describe a fragrance, perfume, or oil from plants in the 17th century.  

Overall, the word essence means an abundance of a quality or holding a quality to a high degree in its complete form. It is an invariable nature of a thing, and this unchangeable nature is inherent in the essence of a thing. It can also refer to a neutral product derived from something like the concentrated form of a plant or the alcoholic solution of an essential oil. This word comes from the Middle English essencia and Latin essentia, from the Ancient Greek οὐσία and Indo-European roots.


  1. essence: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. ESSENCE Synonyms: 75 Synonyms & Antonyms for ESSENCE | Thesaurus 
  3. EXTERIOR Synonyms: 44 Synonyms & Antonyms for EXTERIOR | Thesaurus 
  4. essence | Origin and meaning of essence | Online Etymology Dictionary