Esse and Essentia: What do these Thomist terms mean?

One of the big difficulties for me in reading St Thomas Aquinas (one of many) is that I don’t understand what his terminology means. This morning I came across this paper that helpfully explains the key terms—esse, essentia, ens, quidditia—that are essential to an understanding of Thomas’s views on deity and divine simplicity.  If the author hasn’t gotten the terms right, please do let me know.

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9 Responses to Esse and Essentia: What do these Thomist terms mean?

  1. Do you know where I can get the English version of this article?


  2. Fr. Joseph Bittle says:

    FYI, if you don’t have or want a Scribd account, this is also available at


  3. thomas says:

    That article is helpful. E.L. Mascall has a helpful chart of the different Latin Latin terms and their relationship in one of his books (I think “He Who Is”).

    One of the more eye-opening discussions for me of how the terms for being are used across the philosophical traditions is in Oliva Blanchette’s “Philosophy of Being”, in which he explained how the idiosyncrasies of Greek, Latin, German, French and English fit into the way we think about being. It is quite helpful in terms of explaining what philosophers mean when they talk about being, and how they can talk past each other because of the grammatical features of their languages.

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  4. You might try the short treatise that Thomas himself wrote on the topic while a student in Paris, “De Ente et Essentia.” The posted paper makes reference to it several times.


  5. Bill says:

    Fr. Kimel,

    You may want to get a copy of Bernard Wuellner, SJ’s Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy from (http:/// If you’re fluent in Latin, you might try The Lexicon of St. Thomas Aquinas from (, a dictionary with Latin words defined in English. I’m familiar with Preserving Christian Publications, Incorporated because its president, John C Parrot, is a dear friend of mine.


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