\ ˈi-zəm How to pronounce ism (audio) \

Definition of ism

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory
2 : an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief we all have got to come to grips with our isms— Joycelyn Elders

Definition of -ism (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : act : practice : process criticism plagiarism
b : manner of action or behavior characteristic of a (specified) person or thing animalism
c : prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a (specified) attribute racism sexism
2a : state : condition : property barbarianism
b : abnormal state or condition resulting from excess of a (specified) thing alcoholism or marked by resemblance to (such) a person or thing giantism
3a : doctrine : theory : religion Buddhism
b : adherence to a system or a class of principles stoicism
4 : characteristic or peculiar feature or trait colloquialism

Examples of ism in a Sentence

Noun Cubism, Impressionism, and other artistic isms. ageism, racism, sexism, and all the other familiar isms
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This is a story that at least half the American people understand the Hunter Biden story as a story of the swamp, the elite, buddy-buddy-ism, using your family influence to do well in life. NBC News, "Meet the Press - October 13, 2019," 13 Oct. 2019 But based on what October and, to this point, November have delivered, there now is the flip side of the aforementioned Spo-isms. Ira Winderman,, "Winderman: Spoelstra in a better place, but Heat decisions remain | Commentary," 18 Nov. 2019 Your question pings like an old pinball machine — jack-of-all-trade-ism, job-hopping, restaurant work, anxiety, ping, ping, ping. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, "Carolyn Hax: He changes jobs as if he were changing socks," 29 July 2019 Nearly all the theories, abstractions, hierarchies, and isms of contemporary culture tend toward the same end: to saddle people, in all their glorious and individual messiness, with simple, easy-to-read labels. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, "What the ‘Resistance Library’ shows us about America’s struggles today," 28 Aug. 2019 Bears coach Matt Nagy adds to growing list of Fangio-isms+ Broncos OL Ja’Wuan James out, LB Todd Davis possibly in Sunday vs. Chicago + Kiszla vs. O’Halloran: Did punting preseason doom Broncos to defeat in Oakland? Jeff Bailey, The Denver Post, "Broncos Insider: Rookie tight end Noah Fant on rough debut: “I expect more from myself”," 12 Sep. 2019 And, it must be said, the blithe status quo-ism of Mr Biden could be even more off-putting to Mr Sanders’s supporters than her wonkish pragmatism. The Economist, "Bernie Sanders’s permanent revolution," 15 Aug. 2019 It’s, like, this Romney-ism 3.0, that says that half of the country are worthless takers? Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, "David French, Sohrab Ahmari, and the Battle for the Future of Conservatism," 12 Sep. 2019 Your question pings like an old pinball machine -- jack-of-all-trade-ism, job-hopping, restaurant work, anxiety, ping, ping, ping. Carolyn Hax, al, "Carolyn Hax: Serial job-hopping husband might need professional help making choices that suit his nature," 29 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ism


1680, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ism



Noun suffix

Middle English -isme, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, partly from Latin -isma (from Greek) & partly from Latin -ismus, from Greek -ismos; Greek -isma & -ismos, from verbs in -izein -ize

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Statistics for ism

Last Updated

12 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Ism.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for ism


How to pronounce -ism (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ism

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a belief, attitude, style, etc., that is referred to by a word that ends in the suffix -ism

English Language Learners Definition of -ism (Entry 2 of 2)

: the act, practice, or process of doing something
: behavior like that of a specified kind of person or thing
: unfair treatment of a group of people who have a particular quality
\ ˌi-zəm \

Kids Definition of -ism

1 : act : practice : process baptism criticism
2 : manner of action or behavior like that of a specified person or thing heroism
3 : state : condition alcoholism
4 : teachings : theory : system socialism

More from Merriam-Webster on ism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ism

Comments on ism

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to insert between existing elements

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