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.”

Examples of egalitarianism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But also, there’s a kind of twisted egalitarianism to Larry’s bile. James Poniewozik, New York Times, 2 Feb. 2024 The version of communism that would ultimately come to dominate would rely more on economic science than moral arguments for egalitarianism made by thinkers like Cabet. John Last, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 Nov. 2023 That agrarian spirit of self-reliance mixed with egalitarianism still emanates from Pendergrass. Tyrone Beason, Los Angeles Times, 21 Sep. 2023 Here was a grass-roots movement that was demanding not egalitarianism, but nativism; not solidarity, but discord. Jennifer Szalai, New York Times, 30 Aug. 2023 But this tournament, the first with 32 teams, has been a rollicking display of egalitarianism. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, 19 Aug. 2023 Those sentiments echoed the feelings of protesters, many of them young, in recent days, rekindling a deeply sensitive subject in France, where authorities prefer not to talk about race and discrimination in a country that prides itself on egalitarianism. Constant Méheut,, 1 July 2023 Kropotkin tells us that mutual aid flourishes where egalitarianism and self-government prevail, but that it can be found in even the most repressive conditions. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 21 Feb. 2023 The civil rights movement called into question the United States’ self-image as a bastion of liberal egalitarianism (and rightly so). Beverly Gage, Foreign Affairs, 14 Dec. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'egalitarianism.' 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

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 21 Feb. 2024.

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