- a member of a Palestinian sect, characterized by asceticism, celibacy, and joint holding of property, that flourished from the 2nd century b.c. to the 2nd century a.d.
- Judaism a member of an ascetic sect that flourished in Palestine from the second century bc to the second century ad, living in strictly organized communities
1550s, member of a Jewish sect (first recorded 2c. B.C.E.), from Latin, from Greek Essenoi, of disputed etymology, perhaps from Hebrew tzenum “the modest ones,” or Hebrew hashaim “the silent ones.” Klein suggests Syriac hasen, plural absolute state of hase “pious.”