1. The constituent elementary notions which constitute a complex notion, and must be enumerated to define it; sometimes called the nominal essence.
2. The constituent quality or qualities which belong to any object, or class of objects, or on which they depend for being what they are (distinguished as real essence); the real being, divested of all logical accidents; that quality which constitutes or marks the true nature of anything; distinctive character; hence, virtue or quality of a thing, separated from its grosser parts. The laws are at present, both in form and essence, the greatest curse that society labors under. (Landor) Gifts and alms are the expressions, not the essence of this virtue charity (Addison) The essence of Addison’s humor is irony. (Courthope)
3. Constituent substance. And uncompounded is their essence pure. (Milton)
4. A being; especially, a purely spiritual being. As far as gods and heavenly essences Can perish. (Milton) He had been indulging in fanciful speculations on spiritual essences, until . . . He had and ideal world of his own around him. (W. Irving)
5. The predominant qualities or virtues of a plant or drug, extracted and refined from grosser matter; or, more strictly, the solution in spirits of wine of a volatile or essential oil; as, the essence of mint, and the like. The . . . Word essence . . . Scarcely underwent a more complete transformation when from being the abstract of the verb to be, it came to denote something sufficiently concrete to be inclosed in a glass bottle. (j. S. Mill)
6. Perfume; odour; scent; or the volatile matter constituting perfume. Nor let the essences exhale. (Pope)
Origin: f. Essence, L. Essentia, formed as if fr. A p. Pr. Of esse to be. See Is, and cf. Entity.