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 To read this program is to assume that lesbian and Black women have nothing to say about existentialism, the erotic, women’s culture and silence, developing feminist theory, or heterosexuality and power. Emily Bernard, The New Republic, "Audre Lorde Broke the Silence," 25 Mar. 2021 After the Second World War, the Catholic Church would provide a suitably august arena for the transition to another sort of religion: doubt, anxiety, existentialism. Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, "Graham Greene’s Dark Heart," 15 Mar. 2021 In the writing process, Docter delved into research on essentialism, nihilism and existentialism to better articulate the plight of his characters. Los Angeles Times, "How the makers of Pixar’s ‘Soul’ envisioned a before-life place that kids can grasp," 24 Dec. 2020 This masterpiece of barroom existentialism cuts gloom with just enough hope to keep the quarters pumping into the jukebox. Rj Smith, Los Angeles Times, "Charley Pride: 10 essential songs," 12 Dec. 2020 Other parts of the speech, though—and even that inspirational line, in context—boast a bleak and bracing existentialism. George Blaustein, The New Republic, "Searching for Consolation in Max Weber’s Work Ethic," 2 July 2020 Start with the word salad of Marxism, anarchism, and existentialism. Matthew Walther, TheWeek, "'Imagine' is a bad, bad song," 4 June 2020 This being San Francisco, there is a longstanding local group for existentialism. Nellie Bowles, New York Times, "Silicon Valley Goes to Therapy," 20 Sep. 2019 And that’s exactly the idea The Good Place tackles—via existentialism, of course. Anne T. Donahue, Marie Claire, "How Accurate Is The Good Place's Philosophy?," 31 Jan. 2019

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

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The first known use of existentialism was in 1941

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Last Updated

19 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Existentialism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/existentialism. Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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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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