Meaning of ESSENTIAL in English


I. ə̇ˈsenchəl, eˈ-, ēˈ- adjective

Etymology: Middle English essencial, from Late Latin essentialis, from Latin essentia essence + -alis -al

1. : of or relating to an essence: as

a. : having or realizing in itself the essence of its kind : having or consisting of the basic, most fundamental nature, property, quality, or attribute peculiar to or necessary or indispensable to its kind

the problem is to grasp the essential man — Carl Bridenbaugh

the sunshine where it fell was a blinding essential light without color, so that the grass looked like snowdrifts — John Buchan

b. : forming or constituting the essence of something : making up or being the constituent or intrinsic character of very nature of a thing

his eyes were wide, as one who looks at his essential self through the mask we wear — George Meredith

wished his work to have no ornament other than its own essential beauty, without exterior decoration — Aldous Huxley

our essential admixture of matter and spirit, emotions and intelligence — Word Study

c. : belonging to or being part of the essence of something : belonging to the constituent fundamental character of a thing : not accidental to something

stamens are essential organs of a flower

has not shown that the merits of puritan thought are essential and the defects accidental — M.G.White

the most essential characteristic of mind is memory — Bertrand Russell

the great charm of his personality, his essential sympathy and kindliness — M.R.Cohen

did much to direct attention to the essential immorality of lotteries — J.S.Kendall

— compare accessory 1

d. : constituting an indispensable structure, core, or condition of a thing : basic , fundamental

a little excessive to have to sit through so much frankly nonessential repertory in order to hear two short works from the band's essential repertory — Virgil Thomson

there was an essential soundness in his line of reasoning


a. : necessary , indispensable

transporting the heavy ore by rail was difficult and expensive; a water route was essential — Allan Nevins & H.S.Commager

international scientific meetings are essential to scientific progress for the reason that no one nation has a monopoly of either ideas or brains — Saturday Review

agreed to request uniform standards for deferment of essential physicians — Current Biography

Lutherans from the sixteenth century have regarded choir singing as essential to their ritual — American Guide Series: Minnesota

b. : unavoidable

a good many essential tasks are left until the last minute — Stewart Cockburn

physicians and lawyers may count their purchases of books as essential expenses of their profession in computing income tax — Report: (Canadian) Royal Commission on National Development

c. : important in the highest degree : demanding maximum attention : unavoidably significant

a great reserve of manpower essential to the defense of the homeland

d. : minimal but fundamental to the achievement of an end

make yourself a small pocket map showing the essential landmarks around camp so that you can find your way back — Boy Scout Handbook

3. : containing the essence of that portion of a plant or substance which is marked by its characteristic odor or virtue : being or relating to an essence (sense 8)

an essential odor

— see essential oil

4. of a musical tone : necessary to or determining the tonality of a piece of music

did not alter the essential tones but added grace notes

5. : having no obvious or known cause : idiopathic , inherent

essential disease


fundamental , vital , and cardinal all imply maximum importance, indispensability, and necessary priority in considerations, plans, or discussions. Often the words are interchangeable. When they do differ in implication, these differences are suggested by the etymologies. essential may suggest that the matter in question involves the very essence, or being or real nature, of whatever is concerned

but in the epic, lyric, the dramatic … ideality in contrast with actuality plays an intrinsic and essential part — John Dewey

undoubtedly correct in concluding that the essential emotion of the play [ Hamlet ] is the feeling of a son toward a guilty mother — T.S.Eliot

fundamental may suggest something of the nature of a foundation, something on which a system or structure rests

such fundamental methods as induction and deduction, analysis, synthesis, and comparison are common to all types of systematic knowledge — René Wellek & Austin Warren

recognition of the importance of fundamental skills, since in a democracy citizens must be able to compute, read, write, listen, and speak effectively — New York Times

vital may suggest that which is necessary to continued life or existence of whatever is in question

nitrate, necessary in fertilizers, but vital to the manufacturers of explosives in case of war — A.C.Morrison

barriers within our own country which stand in the way of bringing to Americans resources vital to their own safety and interest — C.E.Odegaard

cardinal may refer to the decisive or conclusive since it may suggest that on which an outcome hinges or pivots

to one cardinal principle Edwards was faithful — the conception of the majesty and sufficiency of God, and this polar idea provides the clue to both his philosophical and theological systems — V.L.Parrington

the cardinal virtue in the Shavian scale … is responsibility; every creed he has attacked Shaw has attacked on the grounds of irresponsibility — E.R.Bentley

Synonym: see in addition needful .

II. noun

( -s )

: something essential: as

a. : something basic or fundamental especially belonging to or forming part of the minimal indispensable body, character, or structure of a thing

the essentials of the good life

the essentials of astronomy

gave only the essentials of the story

b. : something necessary, indispensable, or unavoidable

work was an essential to survival

a man considered an essential in his office

a job that was both a great chore and an essential to the success of the enterprise

all that sort of duplicity is an essential in any handling of men by methods other than direct authority — Hilaire Belloc

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.