AskDefine | Define being

Dictionary Definition



1 the state or fact of existing; "a point of view gradually coming into being"; "laws in existence for centuries" [syn: beingness, existence] [ant: nonexistence, nonbeing]
2 a living thing that has (or can develop) the ability to act or function independently [syn: organism]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Being



Originated 1250–1300 from Middle English being; see be + -ing.


  • /ˈbiːɪŋ/, /"bi:IN/
  • Rhymes with: -iːɪŋ
  • Hyphenation: be·ing


  1. a living creature.
  2. the state or fact of existence, consciousness, or life, or something in such a state.
  3. that which has actuality (materially or in concept).
  4. one's basic nature, or the qualities thereof; essence or personality.

Derived terms


n. living being
n. existence


  1. present participle of be

Derived terms


  • American Heritage 2000
  • Kernerman
  • WordNet 2003

Extensive Definition

In ontology, the study of being, being is anything that can be said to be, either transcendentally or immanently.
The nature of being varies by philosophy, giving different interpretations in the frameworks of Aristotle, materialism, idealism, existentialism, Islam, and Marxism.

Being in continental philosophy and existentialism

Some philosophers deny that the concept of "being" has any meaning at all, since we only define an object's existence by its relation to other objects, and actions it undertakes. The term "I am" has no meaning by itself; it must have an action or relation appended to it. This in turn has led to the thought that "being" and nothingness are closely related, developed in existential philosophy.
Existentialist philosophers such as Sartre, as well as continental philosophers such as Hegel and Heidegger have also written extensively on the concept of being. Hegel distinguishes between the being of objects (being in itself) and the being of people (Geist). Hegel, however, did not think there was much hope for delineating a "meaning" of being, because being stripped of all predicates is simply nothing.
Heidegger, in his quest to re-pose the original pre-Socratic questions of Being (of why is there something rather than nothing), wondered at how to meaningfully ask the question of the meaning of being, since it is both the greatest, as it includes everything that is, and the least, since no particular thing can be said of it. He distinguishes between different modes of beings: a privative mode is present-at-hand, whereas beings in a fuller sense are described as ready-to-hand. The one who asks the question of Being is described as Da-sein ("there/here-being") or being-in-the-world. Sartre, popularly understood as misreading Heidegger (an understanding supported by Heidegger's essay "Letter on Humanism" which responds to Sartre's famous address, "Existentialism is a Humanism"), employs modes of being in an attempt to ground his concept of freedom ontologically by distinguishing between being-in-itself and being-for-itself.

Being in Islamic philosophy

The nature of "being" has also been debated and explored in Islamic philosophy, notably by Ibn Sina, Suhrawardi, and Mulla Sadra.

Being in popular culture

The question of the relation between being and consciousness, such as might be manifested in artificial intelligence, is a theme of science fiction, such as that raised in the I, robot series of stories by Isaac Asimov, and in the presentation of HAL-9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, both the novel by Arthur C. Clarke and the film by Stanley Kubrick.


As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being. - Carl Jung
Under the heading ‘Individuality in Thought and Desire’, Karl Marx, (German Ideology 1845), states, "It depends not on consciousness, but on being; not on thought, but on life; it depends on the individual's empirical development and manifestation of life, which in turn depends on the conditions existing in the world."


being in Min Nan: Chûn-chāi
being in Bulgarian: Битие
being in Czech: Bytí
being in German: Sein (Philosophie)
being in Spanish: Ser
being in French: Être
being in Croatian: Bitak
being in Italian: Essere (filosofia)
being in Kara-Kalpak: Bolmıs
being in Dutch: Zijn
being in Polish: Byt
being in Russian: Бытие (философия)
being in Simple English: Being
being in Slovak: Bytie
being in Serbian: Битак
being in Serbo-Croatian: Bitak
being in Finnish: Olemassaolo
being in Turkish: Varlık
being in Ukrainian: Буття

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Adamite, actual, actuality, aerobic organism, an existence, anaerobic organism, as, as is, as long as, autotrophic organism, body, bones, bosom, breast, cat, cause, chap, character, considering, contemporaneous, contemporary, creature, critter, current, customer, duck, earthling, ens, entelechy, entity, esprit, esse, essence, essentiality, existence, existent, existing, extant, fellow, for, fresh, genetic individual, groundling, guts, guy, hand, head, heart, heart of hearts, heartstrings, heterotrophic organism, homo, human, human being, immanent, immediate, in being, in effect, in existence, in force, inasmuch as, individual, individuality, inmost heart, inmost soul, innermost being, instant, joker, latest, life, living, living being, living soul, living thing, man, material, materiality, matter, microbe, microorganism, modern, monad, morphological individual, mortal, nature, new, nose, object, occurrence, on foot, one, ont, organic being, organism, organization, party, person, persona, personage, personality, physiological individual, presence, present, present-age, present-day, present-time, prevalent, running, secret places, seeing, since, single, somebody, someone, something, soul, spirit, stuff, subsistence, subsistent, subsisting, substance, substantiality, tellurian, terran, texture, that be, that is, thing, topical, under the sun, unit, up-to-date, up-to-the-minute, virus, viscera, whereas, worldling, zooid, zoon
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