Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of or relating to the foundation or base; elementary: the fundamental laws of the universe.
  • adj. Forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure; central: an example that was fundamental to the argument.
  • adj. Of great significance or entailing major change: a book that underwent fundamental revision.
  • adj. Physics Of or relating to the component of lowest frequency of a periodic wave or quantity.
  • adj. Physics Of or relating to the lowest possible frequency of a vibrating element or system.
  • adj. Music Having the root in the bass: a fundamental chord.
  • n. Something that is an essential or necessary part of a system or object.
  • n. Music The first harmonic in a harmonic series; the lowest harmonic.
  • n. Physics The lowest frequency of a periodically varying quantity or of a vibrating system.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A leading or primary principle, rule, law, or article, which serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part, as, the fundamentals of linear algebra.
  • adj. Pertaining to the foundation or basis; serving for the foundation. Hence: Essential, as an element, principle, or law; important; original; elementary; as, a fundamental truth; a fundamental axiom.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Pertaining to the foundation or basis; serving for the foundation.
  • n. A leading or primary principle, rule, law, or article, which serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part, .

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Pertaining to the foundation; serving as or being a component part of a foundation or basis; hence, essential; important; original; elementary: as, a fundamental truth or principle; a. fundamental law.
  • See fundamental, n., 2.
  • The low tone generated by the tones of a chord. Also called fundamental note.
  • n. A leading or primary principle, rule, law, or article, which serves as the groundwork of a system; an essential part: as, the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
  • n. In music: The root of a chord.
  • n. The generator of a series of harmonics. Also called fundamental bass, note, or tone.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the lowest tone of a harmonic series
  • adj. far-reaching and thoroughgoing in effect especially on the nature of something
  • n. any factor that could be considered important to the understanding of a particular business
  • adj. serving as an essential component
  • adj. being or involving basic facts or principles

Etymologies

From Late Latin fundamentalis, from Latin fundamentum ("foundation"), from fundare ("to lay the foundation (of something), to found"), from fundus ("bottom") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Here we join issue with those Socialist writers who advocate the endowment of motherhood and give it their own meaning; and that is why in a preceding paragraph the word fundamental has been emphasized, since in the endowment of motherhood as understood by socialists there are two principles, one which I call fundamental, and a second -- that the endowment shall be by the State -- which now falls to be considered.

    Woman and Womanhood A Search for Principles

  • There's no real harm in the use of the term fundamental in this context, but this is about where the word gets elevated beyond its usefulness and starts becoming a hurdle to progress, and then a barrier.

    Asymptotia

  • But, of course, the danger in messing with anything this fundamental is the possibility of royally screwing things up.

    Creating depth in fantasy worlds: Let your people be people «

  • Brian Katulis, a national security expert at the Center for American Progress, said he is worried that members of the Obama administration have lost sight of what he calls the fundamental question: "Are we actually keeping Americans safe?"

    Why Petraeus Can't Make The Sale

  • As though in tandem, Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Breyer recited what they called a fundamental principle: that the public must be able to understand what a criminal law means.

    James D. Zirin: What Are Honest Services?

  • In places like Cleveland and Detroit, Donovan is planning what he called a fundamental rethinking of land use.

    HUD Announces Additional Funds To Fight Foreclosures

  • Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky challenged us to "go to the mountain" -- as we have for education and voting rights -- to ensure health care for all, which he called a fundamental human right.

    Personal Tragedies Show Need for Health Care Reform: Video of "Congressional Send-Off Rally" in L.A.

  • Both the decisions accorded the principle of equality for women, which they termed a fundamental principle, much less than a hegemony in this balance.

    Equality, Religion and Gender in Israel.

  • He says he's upset because he says they violated what he calls a fundamental rule of life.

    CNN Transcript Jun 11, 2008

  • She promised what she called a fundamental break with Liberia's violent past, a 14-year civil war.

    CNN Transcript Jan 16, 2006

Comments

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  • People always wonder why I chuckle when they call themselves "fundamental Christians."

    March 15, 2008

  • A word beloved of bores seeking to pad out their prattle. To me it just means "of the arse".

    March 14, 2008