an·​i·​mism | \ ˈa-nə-ˌmi-zəm How to pronounce animism (audio) \

Definition of animism

1 : a doctrine that the vital principle of organic development is immaterial spirit
2 : attribution of conscious life to objects in and phenomena of nature or to inanimate objects
3 : belief in the existence of spirits separable from bodies

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Other Words from animism

animist \ ˈa-​nə-​mist How to pronounce animism (audio) \ noun
animistic \ ˌa-​nə-​ˈmi-​stik How to pronounce animism (audio) \ adjective

Examples of animism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web What Si-Qin proposes is a sort of cyber-age animism that rejects traditional Western divisions between human and nature, mind and body, and life and death. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "In the galleries: Referencing the revered Washington colorists and beyond," 6 Nov. 2020 The cosmology of spirits in Thailand — a Buddhist-majority nation with crosscurrents of Hinduism, Chinese ancestor worship, and animism — is vast. Adam Dean,, "In every corner of Bangkok, spirits need a home and maybe a strawberry Fanta," 13 June 2020 In the same way, Dikötter shows, Duvalier took up the animism of Haitian vodou and presented himself as the avatar of the cemetery spirit Baron Samedi. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "The Field Guide to Tyranny," 16 Dec. 2019 The Kiwi love of the outdoors is tied not only to the country’s close connection to its farms but to the thoughtful animism at the center of Māori culture, which has spread into the consciousness of most New Zealanders, even Pākehā (whites). Longreads, "Tramp Like Us," 18 Sep. 2019 Crowds regularly throng the streets for one of the countless ceremonies that honor everything from trees and animals to birth and cremation—Balinese Hinduism is a mash-up of animism and Buddhism. Alex Postman, Condé Nast Traveler, "Finding the Bali You Came For," 16 Nov. 2018 That sense of astonishment and animism persisted, helping to inspire hit games such as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda. Catherine Cusick, Longreads, "Nintendo Can Keep a Secret," 22 June 2018 Abbas devoted the next few years to chronicling other religions and beliefs, including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and animism, which is the belief that animals and plants have a spiritual essence. Matt Schudel, Washington Post, "Abbas, photojournalist of Iranian revolution, religious extremism, dies at 74," 28 Apr. 2018 This native animism will take on special importance in the case of Lenin. Olga Ingurazova, Smithsonian, "What Ever Happened to the Russian Revolution?," 29 Sep. 2017

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

1832, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for animism

German Animismus, from Latin anima soul

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Time Traveler for animism

Time Traveler

The first known use of animism was in 1832

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Cite this Entry

“Animism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for animism



English Language Learners Definition of animism

: the belief that all plants, animals, and objects have spirits


an·​i·​mism | \ ˈan-ə-ˌmiz-əm How to pronounce animism (audio) \

Medical Definition of animism

1 : a doctrine that the vital principle of organic development is immaterial spirit
2 : attribution of conscious life to nature or natural objects

Other Words from animism

animist \ -​məst How to pronounce animism (audio) \ noun
animistic \ ˌan-​ə-​ˈmis-​tik How to pronounce animism (audio) \ adjective

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