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 The accompanying clip, directed by Arrad, is a complementary blast of uncut summer hedonism as Yo Gotti and DaBaby preside over a wild pool party. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 4 June 2021 With lyrics about sexting on early-model iPhones, That Kid’s music mostly just aims for a blend of nostalgia and hedonism. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 25 May 2021 The Goodtime Hotel is all about relaxed escapism, with a dash of hedonism thrown in for good measure. Angelina Villa-clarke, Forbes, 17 May 2021 Through it all, Shock G kept that spirit of intellectual hedonism and musical experimentation. Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, 23 Apr. 2021 As the years roll on in the film, the passengers embrace bursts of hedonism and develop new forms of spirituality and contend with all-consuming depression. Alison Willmore, Vulture, 8 Apr. 2021 He rarely got sucked into the hedonism of the Factory party. New York Times, 23 Mar. 2021 The characters around him are equally well drawn, and their moment in time — an era marked by hedonism, idealism and radicalism — is skillfully evoked. Malcom Forbes Special To The Star Tribune, Star Tribune, 12 Mar. 2021 Under the chaotic leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro, Latin America’s largest country long ago succumbed to denialism, disorganization, apathy, hedonism and medical quackery — and buried more than 265,000 people along the way. Washington Post, 9 Mar. 2021

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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Learn More About hedonism

Time Traveler for hedonism

Time Traveler

The first known use of hedonism was in 1856

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Statistics for hedonism

Last Updated

8 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hedonism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hedonism. Accessed 17 Jun. 2021.

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


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