egal·​i·​tar·​i·​an·​ism i-ˌga-lə-ˈter-ē-ə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce egalitarianism (audio)
: a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs
: a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people

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The Roots of Egalitarianism

Egalitarianism comes to the English language from the French. We fashioned egalitarian from their égalitaire “egalitarian” (which comes from the Latin aequalitas “equality”), and then added our -ism to it. The word first appeared in English in the late 19th century; our current earliest citation is from 1874, in The Times of India: “Before the Revolution the officers of one regiment welcomed brother corps with champagne suppers, but egalitarianism has brought us down to punch at five francs the bowl. . . ." The word has seen a subtle shift in meaning. Its earliest use was typically in reference to a belief in human equality; it has since taken on the sense “a social philosophy that advocates the removal of inequality among people.”

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Later, Dimitry’s wife, in a show of faux egalitarianism, makes a resistant crew member get into the hot tub, mid-shift. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, 28 Oct. 2022 Anathema to much of the white South and to its allies in the North, Lincoln frustrated abolitionists who were more advanced than he on freedom and egalitarianism. Jon Meacham, Time, 12 Oct. 2022 This kind of performance happens because these companies function on egalitarianism, which will consistently outperform prejudice. Asaf Darash, Forbes, 4 Oct. 2022 Throughout the nineteen-fifties and sixties, Baker reasserted her racial egalitarianism, refusing to perform in segregated clubs, and shaming establishments that declined to serve Black patrons. Lauren Michele Jackson, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2022 Westwater Canyon, where a two-day, 17-mile float on the Colorado River washed away any trace of our drift from egalitarianism. Sunset Magazine, 28 July 2022 In the spirit of egalitarianism, producers gave their Hall H audience an opportunity to be in the film. Diane Bellcolumnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 July 2022 On the other, the varied aims of Black and Native peoples (and those who were both) ran up against those of white settlers who refused to accept even a whiff of racial egalitarianism. Philip Deloria, The New Yorker, 18 July 2022 Perhaps most ironically, Olmsted’s designs, though conceived in a spirit of egalitarianism, now define some of the country’s most exclusive neighborhoods, including in Boston and Brookline. Malcolm Gay,, 11 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'egalitarianism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

1874, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of egalitarianism was in 1874

Dictionary Entries Near egalitarianism

Cite this Entry

“Egalitarianism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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