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 Coming of age during climate change and entering the workforce during a pandemic created a larger sense of existentialism for my generation. Chloe Berger, Fortune, 7 Aug. 2022 Like Insecure, Rap Sh!t doubles as an incubator for Rae’s thematic interests (friendships between women, career existentialism, the quest for self-worth) and a platform for emerging or under-recognized artists. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 18 July 2022 Herzog has always been attuned to the ways in which survivalism functions as a form of existentialism. Dan Piepenbring, The New Yorker, 16 June 2022 These extended from themes such as existentialism and Marxism to modernist techniques like streams of consciousness. Jordan Michael Smith, WSJ, 27 May 2022 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 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.

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

Learn More About existentialism

Time Traveler for existentialism

Time Traveler

The first known use of existentialism was in 1941

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near existentialism




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for existentialism

Last Updated

17 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Existentialism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/existentialism. Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on existentialism

Britannica English: Translation of existentialism for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about existentialism


Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!