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

Keep scrolling for more

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 alongside the business dealings is full on hedonism: People jumping in the pool fully clothed, banging in the open, and walking around naked. Jean Bentley, refinery29.com, "Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood Limited Series Binge Club: Episodes 1-7," 4 May 2020 The hedonism of succumbing to this kind of dream is linked to the masochistic pleasures of dystopian nightmare-mongering. New York Times, "Once Upon a Timeline in America," 20 Apr. 2020 Perhaps the most glaring example of Naxon and Rash's muddled approach is Charlotte, a louche resort employee who advocates hard-partying hedonism, spending her winters sleeping with guests and her summers back on the farm with her husband. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Downhill': Film Review | Sundance 2020," 27 Jan. 2020 Jess celebrates the high-minded hedonism of the mid-twentieth-century San Francisco Bay Area avant-garde with a canvas that rivals the enameled richness of a medieval altarpiece. Jed Perl, The New York Review of Books, "Spirits of San Francisco," 10 Mar. 2020 Times change, tastes change and cities certainly do, too, as threads of redevelopments and gentrification chomp at the heels of escapism and night-time hedonism. Leah Connolly, Billboard, "Where to Dance In: London," 9 Jan. 2020 But pasta is not all about excess and gluttonous hedonism. Erin Booke, Dallas News, "Pasta Granny goals: 3 frugal recipes from our new favorite cookbook," 7 Jan. 2020 For many of us, however, Burgundy is the destination, the final stop on a pilgrimage of hedonism that began in, say, Napa or Tuscany. Jay Mcinerney, Town & Country, "Pick a Side in the Great Red Wine Wars: Bordeaux or Burgundy?," 4 Nov. 2019 Timothée Chalamet plays the English prince as a beautiful melancholy youth, whose withdrawal from court is prompted more by his political alienation from his war-mongering father, Henry IV (a louche Ben Mendelsohn), than pure hedonism. The Economist, "Lenity and cruelty “The King” is a timely examination of the corrupting influence of power," 4 Nov. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about hedonism

Time Traveler for hedonism

Time Traveler

The first known use of hedonism was in 1856

See more words from the same year

Statistics for hedonism

Last Updated

5 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Hedonism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hedonism. Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for hedonism


How to pronounce hedonism (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on hedonism

What made you want to look up hedonism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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