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Phi·​lis·​tine ˈfi-lə-ˌstēn How to pronounce Philistine (audio)
: a native or inhabitant of ancient Philistia
often not capitalized
: a person who is guided by materialism and is usually disdainful of intellectual or artistic values
: one uninformed in a special area of knowledge
ˈfi-lə-ˌstē-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce Philistine (audio)
noun often capitalized


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or philistine : guided by materialism and disdainful of intellectual or artistic values
a philistine attitude toward opera
Greenfield's anti-hero, Larry Lazar, is not a conventionally philistine tycoon, trampling on the souls of artists.William A. Henry
… future epochs will remember us as a coarse and philistine people who squandered our bottomlessly rich cultural inheritance for short-term and meaningless financial advantage.Gerald Howard
It is a fact of philistine life that amusement is where the money is.William H. Gass
: of or relating to the people of ancient Philistia
Philistine cities
Philistine artifacts

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Philistines, Ancient and Modern

The original Philistines were a people who occupied the southern coast of Palestine more than 3,000 years ago. Enemies of the ancient Israelites, they were portrayed in the Bible as a crude and warlike race. This led to the use of Philistine in English to refer, humorously, to an enemy into whose hands one had fallen or might fall. Several centuries later, an extended sense of philistine denoting “a materialistic person who is disdainful of intellectual or artistic values” came into being as a result of the following: a violent town-gown conflict in the German university town of Jena in the 17th century prompted a local clergyman to address the events in a sermon in which he alluded to the Biblical Philistines. This caused the university students to apply the German word Philister (equivalent to English Philistine) to the townspeople, whom they perceived as unenlightened and hostile to education. English speakers familiar with the story began using philistine in this way by the early 1800s, soon extending its reference to any enemy of culture. The “anti-intellectual” sense of philistine was popularized by the writer Matthew Arnold, who famously applied it to members of the English middle class in his book Culture and Anarchy (1869).

Examples of Philistine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
In pre-Revolutionary Russia some critics derided his compositions as bourgeois work aimed at philistine audiences. Barrymore Laurence Scherer, WSJ, 3 Aug. 2022 There was no reason — other than bankrupt ideology and blinkered philistine pig-ignorance — not to go hog-wild with stimulus, say, $2 trillion for starters. Ryan Cooper, The Week, 10 Jan. 2022

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

Word History

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1578, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of Philistine was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near Philistine

Cite this Entry

“Philistine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


Phi·​lis·​tine ˈfil-ə-ˌstēn How to pronounce Philistine (audio) fə-ˈlis-tən How to pronounce Philistine (audio)
: a member of an ancient race that lived in the coastal regions of Palestine
often not capitalized
: a person who dislikes or is indifferent to art and cultural activities and whose only interest is in making money
: a person who lacks taste or knowledge
philistine adjective often capitalized

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