fas·​cism ˈfa-ˌshi-zəm How to pronounce fascism (audio)
 also  ˈfa-ˌsi-
often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
: a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control
early instances of army fascism and brutality J. W. Aldridge
ˈfa-shist How to pronounce fascism (audio)
 also  -sist
noun or adjective often capitalized
fa-ˈshi-stik How to pronounce fascism (audio)
 also  -ˈsi-
adjective often capitalized
fa-ˈshi-sti-k(ə-)lē How to pronounce fascism (audio)
 also  -ˈsi-
adverb often capitalized

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The Italian Origin of Fascism

The words fascism and fascist have long been associated with the Fascisti of Benito Mussolini and the fasces, the bundle of rods with an ax among them, which the Fascisti used as a symbol of the Italian people united and obedient to the single authority of the state. However, Mussolini did not introduce the word fascista (plural fascisti) with the 1919 organization of the Fasci di combattimento (“combat groups”), nor did the fasces have any direct connection with the origin of fascista. In Italian, the word fascio (plural fasci) means literally “bundle,” and figuratively “group.” From at least 1872 fascio was used in the names of labor and agrarian unions, and in October 1914 a political coalition was formed called the Fascio rivoluzionario d’ azione internazionalista (“revolutionary group for international action”), which advocated Italian participation in World War I on the side of the Allies. Members of this group were first called fascisti in January 1915. Although Mussolini was closely associated with this interventionist movement, it had no direct link with the post-war Fasci di combattimento, and in 1919 the word fascista was already in political circulation. It is, however, to the Fascisti in their 1919 incarnation—who seized power in Italy three years later—that we owe the current customary meanings of our words fascism and fascist.

Example Sentences

From the first hours of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, the propagandists on both sides of the conflict portrayed the struggle in stark, Manichaean language. The totalitarian nature of both regimes made this inevitable. On one side stood Hitler, fascism, the myth of German supremacy; on the other side stood Stalin, communism, and the international proletarian revolution. Anne Applebaum, New York Review of Books, 25 Oct. 2007 Consider what happened during the crisis of global fascism. At first, even the truth about Hitler was inconvenient. Many in the west hoped the danger would simply go away. Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, 2006 He collected stories about groups similar to his—Aryans, other Nazis, the KKK. Lately, he'd been flagging many stories from Germany and Eastern Europe, and was quite thrilled with the rise of fascism there. John Grisham, The Chamber, 1995 the rise of Fascism in Europe before World War II
Recent Examples on the Web Its dizzying spectrum of destabilizing symptoms has helped fuel the resurgence of fascism everywhere, including the U.S. The Editors, Scientific American, 23 Nov. 2022 Intimations of fascism persisted among the creative class and journalists. D.g. Hart, WSJ, 20 Nov. 2022 Captain America was created as a rallying cry to inspire the Allies against the growing threat of fascism. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Nov. 2022 For some scholars and analysts, the history surrounding the rise of fascism offers an instructive lens into the rhetoric and tensions of the current moment. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 3 Nov. 2022 The adjective has been paired with everything from egotism to irony to fascism. Adam Kirsch, The New Republic, 21 Oct. 2022 Although the omniscient narrator reserves judgment, after exposing the forces that determine the girl’s fate, the book’s condemnation of fascism is devastatingly clear. Bethanne Patrick, The Atlantic, 14 Oct. 2022 Amid these and other complications, our heroes will expose the roots of a sinister conspiracy, hatched by industrialists eager to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency and hasten the rise of fascism across and beyond Europe. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 5 Oct. 2022 America was fatally slow to respond to the full threat of fascism the last time around. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, 21 Sep. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fascism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Italian fascismo, from fascio bundle, fasces, group, from Latin fascis bundle & fasces fasces

First Known Use

1921, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of fascism was in 1921

Dictionary Entries Near fascism

Cite this Entry

“Fascism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascism. Accessed 7 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



fas·​cism ˈfash-ˌiz-əm How to pronounce fascism (audio)
often capitalized
: a political system headed by a dictator in which the government controls business and labor and opposition is not permitted
fascist noun or adjective, often capitalized
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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