de·​con·​struc·​tion | \ˌdē-kən-ˈstrək-shən \

Definition of deconstruction 

1 : a philosophical or critical method which asserts that meanings, metaphysical constructs, and hierarchical oppositions (as between key terms in a philosophical or literary work) are always rendered unstable by their dependence on ultimately arbitrary signifiers also : an instance of the use of this method a deconstruction of the nature–culture opposition in Rousseau's work

2 : the analytic examination of something (such as a theory) often in order to reveal its inadequacy

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Did You Know?

Deconstruction doesn't actually mean "demolition;" instead it means "breaking down" or analyzing something (especially the words in a work of fiction or nonfiction) to discover its true significance, which is supposedly almost never exactly what the author intended. A feminist may deconstruct an old novel to show how even an innocent-seeming story somehow depends on the oppression of women. A new western may deconstruct the myths of the old West and show lawmen as vicious and criminals as flawed but decent. Table manners, The Sound of Music, and cosmetics ads have all been the subjects of deconstructionist analysis. Of course, not everyone agrees with deconstructionist interpretations, and some people reject the whole idea of deconstruction, but most of us have run into it by now even if we didn't realize it.

Examples of deconstruction in a Sentence

a lengthy deconstruction of the president's speech by a panel of pundits

Recent Examples on the Web

Her deconstruction of these documents turns the memoir into a sort of therapeutic whodunit. New York Times, "Viv Albertine, Midlife Radical," 1 June 2018 However, part of its workforce development plan — demolition of homes through deconstruction that would preserve some materials for reuse — is no longer happening. Joe Guillen, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit's showcase neighborhood project falls a year behind schedule," 3 July 2018 During deconstruction, a building is systematically taken apart down to the foundation instead of demolished with heavy machinery. Stephanie Morse, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "East side duplexes will be deconstructed — rather than demolished — under new Milwaukee ordinance," 29 June 2018 What follows in the special’s next 45 or so minutes is a subversive deconstruction of professional joke-telling (though much of it is still very funny). Anna Silman, The Cut, "Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette Will Change the Way You Think About Comedy," 20 June 2018 Along the way, in the ’60s, Girard was the key figure in organizing a conference at Johns Hopkins University that brought to America the most prominent French intellectuals of the day, notably Jacques Derrida, the godfather of deconstruction. Frank Wilson,, "'Evolution of Desire': René Girard, a man in full," 6 July 2018 More recently, Thom Browne’s deconstructions have revealed the architectural and cage-like aspects of this silhouette shaper. Vogue, "The Hoop Skirt Comes Full Circle at Loverboy," 11 June 2018 The last two years, he was seen largely as a victim in the deconstruction of that team, as major figures like Sean McVay, Scot McCloughan, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon departed D.C. Albert Breer,, "Great Expectations Across the NFL: 10 Teams, Coaches and Players (Plus a Broadcaster) Staring Down a Huge 2018," 31 May 2018 The left is all about hatred now, about deconstruction, about scraping away the past in an iconoclastic Orwellian frenzy. John Kass,, "Barbara Bush, a great lady of a lost age," 18 Apr. 2018

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

1973, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for deconstruction

French déconstruction, from dé- de- + construction

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The first known use of deconstruction was in 1973

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English Language Learners Definition of deconstruction

: a theory used in the study of literature or philosophy which says that a piece of writing does not have just one meaning and that the meaning depends on the reader

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living or existing for a long time

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