Mc·​Car·​thy·​ism mə-ˈkär-thē-ˌi-zəm How to pronounce McCarthyism (audio)
 also  -ˈkär-tē-
: a mid-20th century political attitude characterized chiefly by opposition to elements held to be subversive and by the use of tactics involving personal attacks on individuals by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges
broadly : defamation of character or reputation through such tactics
mə-ˈkär-thē-ist How to pronounce McCarthyism (audio)
 also  -ˈkär-tē-
mə-ˈkär-thē-ˌīt How to pronounce McCarthyism (audio)
 also  -ˈkär-tē-
noun or adjective

Examples of McCarthyism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In the 1950s and 1960s, McCarthyism swept through the nation, fueling anti-communist fervor and persecution that shook the very foundation of the American identity. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, 1 Apr. 2024 It was always taught in a historical sense—the book-burning Nazis, the war propaganda, McCarthyism—something our professional forebears had battled before and firmly defeated. Lisa Bubert, Longreads, 27 Feb. 2024 The true horror of Kaufman's Invasion, though, is that acquiescence gives way to McCarthyism; in conformity, old friends become new enemies. Randall Colburn,, 9 Nov. 2023 Make no mistake: Ackman’s statement on President Gay and equating diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to modern-day McCarthyism have nothing to do with combating antisemitism. Alphonso David, Essence, 12 Dec. 2023 Politics, which play a large part in the original — and in nearly all of Mallon’s books — are here stripped down to the greatest hits of McCarthyism. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, 27 Oct. 2023 Released last year, the film explores the meaning of moral courage in the 1950s, when the U.S. was in the grip of McCarthyism. Amanda Foreman, WSJ, 16 Sep. 2023 Likewise, the delusional paranoia provoked by McCarthyism was the basis for Cold War aggression. Will Stephenson, Harper's Magazine, 16 Aug. 2023 Later Oppenheimer, who had been a Communist Party sympathizer in his youth and whose wife and brother had been Party members, became a victim of McCarthyism. Byjeremy Kahn, Fortune, 25 July 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'McCarthyism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Joseph R. McCarthy

First Known Use

1950, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of McCarthyism was in 1950

Dictionary Entries Near McCarthyism

Cite this Entry

“McCarthyism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

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