de·​con·​struc·​tion | \ ˌdē-kən-ˈstrək-shən How to pronounce deconstruction (audio) \

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 This was the year that deconstruction and modernism were born. New York Times, "Landing in California, Remembering Tolstoy and Other Letters to the Editor," 9 Apr. 2021 Tom Cruise does arguably the best work of his career in this powerful deconstruction of patriotism and examination of the human cost of war. Brian Tallerico, Vulture, "The 50 Best Movies on Peacock," 23 Jan. 2021 That included a 105-75 deconstruction of LSU powered by an SEC-record 23 made 3-pointers in a building that haunted a few recent Alabama teams. Michael Casagrande |, al, "How this Alabama basketball season will be remembered," 31 Mar. 2021 An in-depth deconstruction of such spiritual and diplomatic responsibility in our tumultuous present, considering the flaws and contradictions of his mortal condition, would render an absorbing film. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Francesco,’ a strictly by-the-numbers take on Pope Francis and a world in crisis," 24 Mar. 2021 The style derives from the project loosely known as deconstruction. James Campbell, WSJ, "Deconstruction, Identity and the Dying Art of Criticism," 19 Mar. 2021 For example, gravity in physics, or deconstruction in literature. Brienne Walsh, Forbes, "In New Paintings, Angela Fraleigh Wakes Women Up From Their Long Slumber," 1 Mar. 2021 As a volunteer in his youth, Lee worked at the Model Cities Program on the Law and Justice Committee, after deconstruction of the Black neighborhood along Williams and Mississippi Streets. The Skanner, oregonlive, "Longtime public official Lee Moore Sr., former chairman of Home Forward board, dies," 6 Mar. 2021 Then, the spokes and hub were removed from the rim, and hub deconstruction began. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "Watch This Guy Replace Bike Tires With Circular Saw Blades," 26 Feb. 2021

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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Last Updated

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Deconstruction.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of deconstruction

technical : 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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