Meaning of “essence” in the English Dictionary

"essence" in British English

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essencenoun

uk /ˈes.əns/ us /ˈes.əns/

essence noun (IMPORTANCE)

C2 [ S or U ] the basic or most important idea or quality of something:

The essence of his argument was that education should continue throughout life.
Yet change is the very essence of life.
in essence C2 formal

relating to the most important characteristics or ideas of something:

In essence, both sides agree on the issue.
be of the essence formal

to be the most important thing:

In any of these discussions, of course, honesty is of the essence.
Time is of the essence.

More examples

  • The essence of punk music was a revolt against both the sound and the system of popular music.
  • The paintings capture the essence of working life at the turn of the last century.
  • He captures the essence of French country life with colourful and pretty designs.
  • The builders are paid by the hour so speed is of the essence.
  • The medieval fair featuring school children from around the region attempted to recapture the essence of medieval life.

(Definition of “essence” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"essence" in American English

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essencenoun

us /ˈes·əns/

essence noun (IMPORTANCE)

[ U ] the basic meaning or importance of something:

The essence of punk was a revolt against both the sound and the system of popular music.
in essence

In essence means that what follows is a brief statement of the basic meaning of something:

In essence, she’s saying that she may quit her job.

essence noun (SMELL/TASTE)

[ C ] a chemical substance obtained from plants that has a strong smell or taste and can be used to flavor foods or provide a pleasant smell, such as in perfumes

(Definition of “essence” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)