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

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

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What does the word essential mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as other sources like Collins English Dictionary and American Heritage, the word essential can either be used as an adjective or a noun. As an adjective, the word essential means constituting essence, or relating to. It can also refer to something that is of the utmost importance or, in biology, a substance that is not synthesized in the body that must be obtained from the diet. As a noun, the word essential refers to something basic, indispensable, necessary or unavoidable. The pronunciation of essential is i-ˈsen(t)-shəl. Essential is three syllables: es-sen-tial.

There are also numerous different words and phrases that contain the word essential or are related words to essential. These are listed below, from Word Sense.

  •  superessential
  •  essential amino acid
  •  essentialness
  •  essential fatty acid
  •  essential nutrient
  •  essence
  •  essential listening
  •  essential oil
  •  essentially
  •  quintessential

Many different languages also contain their own words for essential. You may notice in the below list of translations from Word Sense that many of these translations look and sound similar to the word essential. This is called a cognate. Cognates are formed when two words have the same root or language of origin. 

  •  Bulgarian: необходим‎
  •  Mandarin: 必要‎ (必要), 不可缺‎, 必備‎, 必备‎ (bìbèi)
  •  Russian: необходи́мый‎
  •  Catalan: essencial‎
  •  Romanian: necesar‎ (masc.) (n)
  •  Portuguese: essencial‎
  •  Bokmål: essensiell‎
  •  Finnish: olennainen‎, tärkeä‎, tarpeellinen‎
  •  Estonian: vajalik‎
  •  Dutch: essentieel‎, onontbeerlijk‎, wezenlijk‎, noodzakelijk‎, nodig‎
  •  Georgian: აუცილებელი‎, არსებითი‎
  •  Japanese: 不可欠‎
  •  Czech: nepostradatelný‎ (masc.), esenciální‎, nezbytný‎ (masc.), nevyhnutelný‎ (masc.)
  •  Scottish Gaelic: deatamach‎, riatanach‎
  •  Slovene: bistven‎, nujen‎
  •  Korean: 필수적인‎
  •  Polish: niezbędny‎ (masc.)
  •  Nynorsk: essensiell‎
  •  German: essenziell‎, notwendig‎, unverzichtbar‎
  •  Maltese: essenzjali‎

How can the word essential be used in a sentence?

The word essential can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Below are several examples of essential. 

The geologist was studying the essential property of gold to determine the classification of a rock. She was the first to discover the identity of the subject, so she got to choose the rock’s name and determine its atomic number. The geologist was held in high regard, and was considered essential to the very nature of the future of geology.

During the lockdown, the indispensable worker and essential services department became an essential part of providing the necessities of life to the public. Workers such as farmers and grocery store workers provided the basic form of fodder and shelter to others. 

His public confidence was an essential part of his personality. He never took external considerations into account, and his own opinion was always of the greatest importance. He had cool nerves that allowed him to come by the essentials of the good life with ease. 

The completion of the project was essential to the attainment of an object that they needed: their diploma. If they did not complete their project on the history of chess, they would not receive their degree. 

The scientists extracted the essence of a plant from the leaf. This substance was essential to the cure for the disease that they were testing out. It required the protein of the very rare plant that is in a class of objects only found in a 10 square kilometer area in South America.

While it may seem like a strictly creative field, logic is essential to create a good musician. If one cannot identify the fundamental harmony of a chord, they cannot be a musician to the highest degree. 

The intrinsic value of diamonds comes from the favorable conditions in which they must be found. While diamonds are not considered an essential, a beautiful crystal-clear sphere is a show of inherent means. 

They were stranded on the island with no essential tools or requisites of water fuel. The boundary of each complementary region was miles away, and they did not know how they were going to find the fortune to survive.

What are synonyms and antonyms of essential?

There are many different English-language words that a person can use in place of the word essential. These words are called synonyms. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your English language vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word essential is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  material
  •  cold
  •  congenital
  •  elemental
  •  absolute
  •  basic
  •  basal
  •  connate
  •  fundamental
  •  name of the game
  •  key
  •  principal
  •  deep-seated
  •  nitty-gritty
  •  complete
  •  inbred
  •  inborn
  •  inherent
  •  intrinsic
  •  constitutional
  •  perfect
  •  cardinal
  •  meat and potatoes
  •  primitive
  •  ideal
  •  quintessential
  •  underlying
  •  innate
  •  primary 
  •  main
  •  prime
  •  substratal
  •  nub
  •  elementary

There are also many different English language words that means the opposite of the word essential. These opposite words are called antonyms. Learning antonyms is another great way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms is also provided by Thesaurus.

  •  beside the point
  •  redundant
  •  uncalled-for
  •  prodigal
  •  undesirable
  •  profuse
  •  unessential
  •  noncompulsory
  •  avoidable
  •  futile
  •  causeless
  •  dispensable
  •  expendable
  •  uncritical
  •  unrequired
  •  extraneous
  •  additional
  •  optional
  •  worthless
  •  haphazard
  •  irrelevant
  •  excess
  •  random
  •  wanton
  •  unneeded
  •  lavish
  •  chance
  •  accidental
  •  nonessential
  •  gratuitous
  •  supererogatory
  •  surplus
  •  inessential
  •  needless
  •  unnecessary
  •  exorbitant
  •  casual
  •  useless
  •  superfluous
  •  fortuitous
  •  extrinsic

What is the origin of the word essential?

According to Etymonline, the word essential has been used as an adjective since the mid-14c. This comes from the Late Latin essentialis, from the aAtin essentia meaning being or essence. This is similar to the Greek ousia. This comes from the root essent, which is the present participle of the Latin esse meaning to be, from the Proto-Indo-European root es meaning to be. Essential has meant continuing the essence of something since the 1540s and necessary since the 1520s. One can add the suffixes ly and ism to create the related words essentially (adv.) and essentialism (n.)

Overall, the word essential means the constitution of a thing, a permanent quality, a natural composition of a thing or some things very essence in the highest sense.. In biochemistry and geology, it can refer to an extract of a plant, or mineral constituent of a rock that is necessary for normal growth of an organism but does not occur naturally in the body. Crucial information is essential to creating change.


  1. essential: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. ESSENTIAL Synonyms: 125 Synonyms & Antonyms for ESSENTIAL | Thesaurus 
  3. NONESSENTIAL Synonyms: 19 Synonyms & Antonyms for NONESSENTIAL | Thesaurus 
  4. essential | Origin and meaning of essential | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Essential | Definition of Essential | Merriam-Webster