Welcome to About This Word, where Wordsmyth showcases commentary about relevant words in the news and media our users and staff find interesting. Today’s word: “essential.”


“Essential” things are necessary, fundamental, or irremovable from larger things. So items we cannot do without are essentials.

Also, “essential” can also mean something derived from an essence, like vanilla extract.

In The News

The current government shutdown in the United States has pushed lawmakers to redefine “essential personnel.” Government employees who are “‘essential’ to protecting life and property” would work during a federal shutdown. The government plans to expand the definition of  “essential personnel” and require more employees to work without pay.

The new ruling considers many government employees “essential” to mitigate the effects of the shutdown. Changing the definition of “essential personnel” could possibly extend the shutdown rather than shorten it.    

In Trends

Essential oils have been a popular trend since 2013. Originally used for aromatherapy and perfuming, some claim essential oils can cure or improve many medical conditions. Research has shown possible health benefits of using essential oils. However, a lack of independent scientific testing has created doubt about their effectiveness. Companies who sell essential oils have conducted most of the existing research, which has led skeptics to push for more testing.

In this sense, “essential” refers to the plant essences used to make essential oils. The product is based on an oil distilled from a plant’s essence. However, they are not “essential” in the sense of being necessary for daily life. Be careful– people who sell essential oils might argue the opposite!

Have you ever used essential oils? How do you decide what’s essential? We’d love to hear what you have to say!

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Until next time, Happy Wordsmything!