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essence (n.)

late 14c., essencia (respelled late 15c. on French model), from Latin essentia "being, essence," abstract noun formed (to translate Greek ousia "being, essence") from essent-, present participle stem of esse "to be," from PIE root *es- "to be."

Originally "substance of the Trinity;" the general sense of "basic element of anything" is first recorded in English 1650s, though this is the underlying notion of the first English use of essential. Meaning "ingredient which gives something its particular character" is from c. 1600, especially of distilled oils from plants (1650s), hence "fragrance, perfume" (17c.). In 19c. U.S., essence-peddler could mean "medical salesman" and "skunk."

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Definitions of essence from WordNet

essence (n.)
the choicest or most essential or most vital part of some idea or experience;
Synonyms: kernel / substance / core / center / centre / gist / heart / heart and soul / inwardness / marrow / meat / nub / pith / sum / nitty-gritty
essence (n.)
any substance possessing to a high degree the predominant properties of a plant or drug or other natural product from which it is extracted;
essence (n.)
the central meaning or theme of a speech or literary work;
Synonyms: effect / burden / core / gist
essence (n.)
a toiletry that emits and diffuses a fragrant odor;
Synonyms: perfume
From wordnet.princeton.edu