Of the Essence

Meaning of Idiom ‘Of the Essense’

When something is of the essence it is the most important thing; crucial; critical; absolutely necessary for success. 1Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.,2McCarthy, Michael. Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms. Cambridge University Press, 2002,3Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,4Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

Usage

This idiom is often used as part of the phrase ‘Time is of the essence.’ 5Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

Examples of Use

“Time is of the essence, here,” said the detective. “The suspect may leave the country at any time.”

“For the best hope of beating cancer, early detection is of the essence.”

Origin

This idiom first occured in print in 1873. The word essence, however, has been used to refer to the most important element of something since the the 1900s. 6Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.
2. McCarthy, Michael. Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms. Cambridge University Press, 2002
3, 5, 6. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
4. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.