ex·​is·​ten·​tial·​ism | \ ˌeg-(ˌ)zi-ˈsten(t)-shə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce existentialism (audio) , ˌek-(ˌ)si- \

Definition of existentialism

: 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 Employees in an environment of philosophical existentialism feel pride, value and loyalty. Kelley Swing, Rolling Stone, 1 Apr. 2022 Movies about the future tend to come in one of two forms, aesthetically: Cold Apple Store (gleaming white surfaces, chilly existentialism) or Unhinged Apocalypse (dust, chaos, primal fear). Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 3 Mar. 2022 Existential, of course, is linked to existentialism, a focus of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55). Peter Funt, WSJ, 1 Feb. 2022 Didn’t Allen learn anything about fidelity, faith, and existentialism from the great European films parodied in Rifkin’s Festival? Armond White, National Review, 4 Feb. 2022 Chapters focus on major theories, such as utilitarianism, Kant’s ethics of duty, Aristotle’s virtue ethics and Sartre’s existentialism. Julian Baggini, WSJ, 3 Feb. 2022 Like, for example, noir to me is a philosophy of disappointment, dissolution and existentialism. Brent Lang, Variety, 15 Dec. 2021 The idea of their falling out is terrifying, more panic-inducing than Anna’s brush with existentialism. Bethy Squires, Vulture, 14 Dec. 2021 There’s a fresh kind of writing present in the novel—a spontaneous, ecstatic side of Beauvoir that was reined in by the more dutiful side of her existentialism. Lara Feigel, The New Republic, 26 Nov. 2021 See More

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

1941, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for existentialism

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

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The first known use of existentialism was in 1941

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Last Updated

7 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Existentialism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/existentialism. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on existentialism

Britannica English: Translation of existentialism for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about existentialism


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