ex·​is·​ten·​tial·​ism ˌeg-(ˌ)zi-ˈsten(t)-shə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce existentialism (audio)
: a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad

Examples of existentialism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Bringing the iconic Mattel doll and her all-pink world to life, the film explores themes of girlhood, existentialism, feminism and toxic masculinity. Brendan Le, Peoplemag, 11 Mar. 2024 Ready for another trip to Barbie Land (with a splash of existentialism)? Jessica Wang, EW.com, 24 Aug. 2023 The historical novels that make up most of his oeuvre favor the Enlightenment and its ideas, but there are also currents of mid-twentieth-century surrealism and existentialism, Afro-Caribbean legend, Hollywoodesque epic, and Victorian maximalism. Natasha Wimmer, The New York Review of Books, 1 Feb. 2024 Movies do existentialism really well, because a glance, a gesture, a mood can often reveal so much that words can’t. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, 20 Jan. 2024 And more of us, especially Gen Zers, are becoming disillusioned as climate change fuels a sense of existentialism. Chloe Berger, Fortune, 27 Jan. 2024 Straube’s latest project Venus & Blue is even more versatile, leaning into the cool darkness and existentialism of her past EPs Mango Negro, from 2020, and Pez, from 2018. Julyssa Lopez, Rolling Stone, 7 Dec. 2023 But Why? has a similar effect: Its concise setting and action, through the simple passage of time, refresh the concept of existentialism. Armond White, National Review, 11 Oct. 2023 Grammer quickly gave me a tour of his home—the bookshelves lined with thick texts on poetry, art, and existentialism, the kitchen stocked full of his sumo-training nutrients, and the dohyo itself, marked off in his living room by wedges of black electrical tape. Peter Rubin, Longreads, 14 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'existentialism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


existential + -ism, in part as translation of German Existentialismus (or Existenzialismus) or French existentialisme

First Known Use

1941, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of existentialism was in 1941

Dictionary Entries Near existentialism

Cite this Entry

“Existentialism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/existentialism. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

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