ETYM French, from Latin natura, from natus born, produced, p. p. of nasci to be born. Related to Nation.
1. A causal agent creating and controlling things in the universe.
2. A wild primitive state untouched by civilization; SYN. wild, natural state, state of nature.
3. The complex of emotional and intellectual attributes that determine a person's characteristic actions and reactions.
4. The essential qualities or characteristics by which something is recognized.
The living world, including plants, animals, fungi, and all microorganisms, and naturally formed features of the landscape, such as mountains and rivers.
Historically the word “nature” has had a multiplicity of meanings, which can conveniently be reduced to two. Firstly, it refers to the essence or innate quality of a thing—that which makes it what it is. An example of this would be human nature—the universal characteristics that are common to all people. Secondly, it refers to the material world and to those phenomena that function independently of humans. This definition of nature is often contrasted with the artificial and the conventional; that is, with human modifications of the natural order of things.
Whether nature is superior or inferior to human uses and transformations of it has long been debated. Many have believed that there was a time when people and nature were part of one harmonious whole. Christians identify this period with Adam and Eve’s life before the Fall. For the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Romantics, a pure state of nature could still be found in the behavior of animals, children, and “noble savages”. Such diverse figures as the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes and the 19th-century us thinker Henry Thoreau have attempted to abandon the human world and return to a more natural state. Similar ideas can be found in the ecological movement, which has attacked the spoliation of nature by industry.
In earlier times the natural was also contrasted with the supernatural: the sublunary world, which followed ultimately predictable laws, with the superlunary world—the world of the ideal and the spiritual. In Europe in the Middle Ages a further distinction was made between the passive, created world, natura naturata, and the active physical force that created it, natura naturans. Such a force was often personified; as gods like Persephone and Gaia by the ancient Greeks, and later as Mother Nature. The Romantics, exemplified by the poetry of Wordsworth, venerated this notion of nature as an active presence in the world.