he·​do·​nism | \ˈhē-də-ˌni-zəm \

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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Other Words from hedonism

hedonist \ˈhē-​də-​nist \ noun
hedonistic \ˌhē-​də-​ˈni-​stik \ adjective
hedonistically \ˌhē-​də-​ˈni-​sti-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

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

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 Punk hedonism and good old American ingenuity never looked better, nor ruffled feathers so effectively. David Pagel, latimes.com, "For Kitty Brophy, freedom from authority in some wickedly sensuous lines," 17 Apr. 2018 But that doesn't quite convey the machismo, the serious drugs, the hedonism, the wild debauchery of the life. Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY, "Our review: Anthony Bourdain's 'Kitchen Confidential' captured restaurants' demented glory," 8 June 2018 In the 1980s, the gay community's anguished response to the AIDS crisis made the insular hedonism of Crowley's characters seem trivial. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Boys in the Band': Theater Review," 1 June 2018 In 1977, Studio 54 and its founders, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, epitomized New York hedonism. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Tribeca Film Festival: Music-Themed Docs Spotlight Studio 54, Ed Sheeran, Blue Note Records," 7 Mar. 2018 Mao Zedong said, but this revolution was also a party, and left behind a legacy of hedonism. New York Times, "Dystopia, Apocalypse, Culture War: 2018 or 1968?," 17 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

5 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for hedonism

The first known use of hedonism was in 1856

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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 \

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 \ noun
hedonistic \ˌhēd-​ᵊn-​ˈis-​tik \ adjective
hedonistically \-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

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Comments on hedonism

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