he·​do·​nism | \ ˈhē-də-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce hedonism (audio) \

Definition of hedonism

1 : the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life
2 : a way of life based on or suggesting the principles of hedonism she was a perfect specimen of selfish hedonism— Donald Armstrong

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The Modern Definition of Hedonism

When hedonism first appeared in English in the middle of the 19th century, it referred to the doctrines of certain schools of philosophy in ancient Greece (such as the Epicureans and Cyrenaics), who held that happiness or pleasure constituted the chief goal in life. As used today, the word frequently carries a judgmental tinge. If someone is described as living a life of hedonism, the implication is that he or she derives happiness from debauchery rather than, say, spending quality time with family or forming meaningful relationships at work. Hedonism comes from the Greek hēdonē (“pleasure”), which also provides the root of the word anhedonia (“a psychological condition characterized by inability to experience pleasure in normally pleasurable acts”).

Examples of hedonism in a Sentence

their spring break trip to Mexico became an exercise in heedless hedonism

Recent Examples on the Web

Christian and his friends have embarked on a remote Scandinavian holiday in search of cultural enrichment with a strong dash of hedonism. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Ari Aster’s Midsommar Is a Sun-Drenched Horror Triumph," 2 July 2019 And on her first mission, this overqualified woman joins H for a night of hedonism diplomacy, showing some sluggy alien grandee a good time in a London nightclub. Darren Franich, EW.com, "Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson reunite for eerily bland Men in Black: International: EW review," 12 June 2019 Jonny Banger and his crew are playing with the language of fashion—subverting it, too—as part of a broader cultural conversation that takes in sustainability, social justice, class, and hedonism. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "Our Very Favorite Moments From the Fall 2019 Collections," 12 Mar. 2019 To truly understand Budapest's hedonism, spend time in its cafés. András Szántó, Condé Nast Traveler, "Where to Eat, Stay, and Play in Budapest," 29 Aug. 2018 The standard amenities in the GT range from safety electronics such as blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking, to hedonism such as heated front seats, a sunroof, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Al Haas, Philly.com, "Volkswagen offers a roomy 2018 Passat GT that's fun to play with," 31 May 2018 But the price can rise with the temperature of your hedonism. Al Haas, Philly.com, "Redesigned after 10 years, new Buick Enclave is worth the wait," 28 June 2018 Meanwhile, much of mainstream hip-hop went from fierce anti-racist politics, decades ago, to celebrations of hedonism. Scott Timberg, Vox, "How music has responded to a decade of economic inequality," 30 July 2018 The Grandmaster’s evilness stems entirely from his hedonism. Anna Peele, GQ, "Introducing the Sexy Villain Matrix," 3 May 2018

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

1856, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for hedonism

Greek hēdonē pleasure; akin to Greek hēdys sweet — more at sweet

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Statistics for hedonism

Last Updated

18 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hedonism

The first known use of hedonism was in 1856

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More Definitions for hedonism



English Language Learners Definition of hedonism

: the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life


he·​do·​nism | \ ˈhēd-ᵊn-ˌiz-əm How to pronounce hedonism (audio) \

Medical Definition of hedonism

: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life

Other Words from hedonism

hedonist \ -​ᵊn-​əst How to pronounce hedonist (audio) \ noun
hedonistic \ ˌhēd-​ᵊn-​ˈis-​tik How to pronounce hedonistic (audio) \ adjective
hedonistically \ -​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce hedonistically (audio) \ adverb

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