Ori·​en·​tal·​ism | \ ˌȯr-ē-ˈen-tə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce Orientalism (audio) \
variants: or orientalism
plural Orientalisms or orientalisms

Definition of Orientalism

1 : scholarship, learning, or study in Asian subjects or languages Knowledge of Islam and Muslims crystallised into what became known, by the late 18th century, as Orientalism—the study of the history, languages and cultures of the East.— Roger Hardy now often used with negative connotations of a colonialist bias underlying and reinforced by such scholarshipAccording to Edward Said and other postcolonial critics, much of our dim view of Arabs is a product of an "Orientalism" that was constructed by European intellectuals of the 19th century …— Victor Hanson Davis"Orientalism" in the study of Muslim societies carries somewhat negative implications these days as a label for literary analyses deprived of social or historical context …— C. C. Stewart
2 usually orientalism : something (such as a style or manner) associated with or characteristic of Asia or Asians Strauss's orientalisms are truly evocative: those in the "Dance of the Seven Veils" evoke both warmth and strangeness through their use of artificial scales …— Derrick Puffett

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Other Words from Orientalism

Orientalist \ ˌȯr-​ē-​ˈen-​tə-​list How to pronounce Orientalist (audio) \ or orientalist adjective
Orientalist studies/attitudes
Orientalist or orientalist noun, plural Orientalists or orientalists
In recent years Mr. Lewis, and indeed the whole of the older generation of American and European Islamic scholars, have come under attack as "Orientalists," a word that refers to students of Eastern languages and cultures but in the polemics of the moment has come to mean agents of intellectual and political imperialism, scholars dedicated to a discourse that fosters oppression of Eastern peoples by Western. — Ira M. Lapidus The burden of being White Men is what hobbles us in our study of Hinduism. Or so Columbia University's Edward Said tells us, and his words are echoed by those who would deconstruct the study of "the Orient" in general and Hinduism in particular. Since Said's shattering denunciation in Orientalism (1978), Orientalists—Westerners who study Eastern religions and societies—have perceived themselves to be hopelessly tarred by the brushes of racism, colonialism, Eurocentrism, and sexism. — Wendy Doniger

Examples of Orientalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The orientalism of the 19th century saw western colonial authors fetishizing an exotic other. Khalid Albaih, Quartz, "We used our art to fight. Now we need it to heal us," 19 June 2019 The gaudy orientalism of Thomas Moore’s poem (translated into German for Schumann’s setting) is the usual insufficient one. Mark Swed, latimes.com, "'Das Paradies': A giant globular tear as ticket to heaven," 4 June 2018 The fundamental premise of the Tomb Raider franchise is full-on, orthodox orientalism. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "There’s Something Different About the New Lara Croft," 20 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'Orientalism.' 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 Orientalism

1747, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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The first known use of Orientalism was in 1747

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Cite this Entry

“Orientalism.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Orientalism. Accessed 7 December 2019.

More from Merriam-Webster on Orientalism

Britannica English: Translation of Orientalism for Arabic Speakers

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