• Presently alive or in existence; Existing instead of having been lost or destroyed, often with the connotation of rareness


We may have our differences, but all of us are extant. Extant means "existing," but it can carry several different connotations in addition to that core meaning. If extant is used to refer to a total whole consisting of many individual things, then extant means something like "all" or "every last one." For example, an enthusiastic dance critic might declare that a rising star performer is the most talented of all extant dancers. Here, the critic means that Miss Castanel is the most talented out of all currently practicing dancers. On the other hand, sometimes extant can emphasize not totality but instead the actuality of a thing's existence. Thus, a troubled parent might tell a friend, "Ever since she learned that Santa Claus doesn't actually exist, Betsy has been unwilling to accept the extant reality of anything we tell her about." In this usage, extant most nearly means "actually existing" as opposed to "fictitiously existing."

Finally, extant can mean that something is alive or existing as opposed to being dead or destroyed. Often, this usage carries the connotation of surprise or relief that a thing is still existing, usually because many other instances or things of the same kind have been lost or destroyed. This sense of extant is perhaps most often applied to historical documents which have been preserved over time, but it can be used in other ways as well. For example, a zoologist might state, "When their numbers became dangerously low, all extant panda bears became valued as priceless treasures." Here, extant describes the few panda bears remaining alive in the entire world.

Example: I'm so hungry I feel like I could eat all extant bananas!

Example: Many of the family photo albums were burned in the house fire, so the extant family photographs are displayed in the hall but fiercely guarded.

Example: There are several slightly variant versions of most extant Shakespeare plays.


Extant entered English in the mid-16th century with the meaning "standing out above the surface of a thing." It derives directly from the Latin extantem, which is the present participle of extare, meaning "to stand out above," "to be visible," or "to exist." This Latin verb is formed from the prefix ex- ("out") and the root stare ("to stand"). The root stare descends from the Proto-Indo European root sta which also means "to stand."

In Literature

From Ursula K. Le Guin's Le Guin's Hypothesis:

Literature is the extant body of written art. All novels belong to it.
The value judgement concealed in distinguishing one novel as literature and another as genre vanishes with the distinction.
Every readable novel can give true pleasure. Every novel read by choice is read because it gives true pleasure.

Here, as part of her argument against the distinction between genre novels and literary novels, Le Guin uses extant to encapsulate all written art in existence and place it all under the heading of literature.


  • If something is distant,
    Or immediately present,
    It is equally extant.

  • Everything existent
    Is also extant.


Existence, Philosophy, Metaphysics, History

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of extant. Did you use extant in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.