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Late Latin existentialis, from existentia.[1][2]


  • IPA(key): /ˌɛɡ.zɪs.ˈtɛn.ʃəl/, /ˌɛk.sɪs.ˈtɛn.ʃəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛnʃəl


existential (not comparable)

  1. Of or relating to existence.
  2. Concerning the very existence of something, especially with regard to extinction.
    • 2015, James Eaton et al., “Trade-driven extinctions and near-extinctions of avian taxa in Sundaic Indonesia”, in Forktail, page 2, column 2:
      Here, therefore, we seek to assemble and assess the evidence to provide an overview of how serious trade is as an existential threat to avian taxa in Sundaic Indonesia.
    • December 13 2021, Molly Ball, Jeffrey Kluger and Alejandro de la Garza, “Elon Musk: Person of the Year 2021”, in Time[1]:
      To Musk, his vast fortune is a mere side effect of his ability not just to see but to do things others cannot, in arenas where the stakes are existential.
  3. Based on experience; empirical.
    • 1902, William James, “Lecture I”, in The Varieties of Religious Experience:
      In recent books on logic, distinction is made between two orders of inquiry concerning anything. First, what is the nature of it? how did it come about? what is its constitution, origin, and history? And second, What is its importance, meaning, or significance, now that it is once here? The answer to the one question is given in an existential judgment or proposition. The answer to the other is a proposition of value, what the Germans call a Werthurtheil []
  4. (philosophy) Of, or relating to existentialism.
  5. (linguistics) Relating to part of a clause that indicates existence, e.g. "there is".


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


existential (plural existentials)

  1. (linguistics) Ellipsis of existential clause.
    • 2014, Silvia Luraghi, Tuomas Huumo, Partitive Cases and Related Categories, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG (→ISBN), page 153:
      We argue that existentials form a radial category, with a prototype and less canonical instances, where the prototype is clearly definable but the actual borderline between existentials and other clause types is fuzzy.
  2. (programming) Ellipsis of existential type.
    Coordinate term: generic


  1. ^ existential”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2022), “existential”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.

Further reading[edit]

  • "existential" in Raymond Williams, Keywords (revised), 1983, Fontana Press, page 123.