he·​do·​nism ˈhē-də-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce hedonism (audio)
: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life
: a way of life based on or suggesting the principles of hedonism
she was a perfect specimen of selfish hedonismDonald 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

the hedonism of an island vacation
Recent Examples on the Web Immediately, the Cavalli brand became associated with the idea of luxury, wealth and hedonism. Pino Gagliardi, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Apr. 2024 But few could've made the impact McConaughey did in just a handful of scenes, especially the lunch meeting that introduced Belfort and the audience to a through-the-looking-glass world of hedonism. Jeff Labrecque, EW.com, 22 Mar. 2024 Many of us feel this internal tug-of-war on our Mediterranean journeys: hedonism versus curiosity. Tony Perrottet, Condé Nast Traveler, 22 Mar. 2024 Watching from the bar was Carsten Höller, the contemporary artist recruited by Miuccia Prada to mastermind his third episode of Prada’s progressive experiment in creative hedonism. Luke Leitch, Vogue, 11 Mar. 2024 Hendrix's wailing guitar can soundtrack Vietnam or Civil Rights protest footage or hippy hedonism and be equally at home with either. James Powel, USA TODAY, 4 Mar. 2024 Except Walker has more on her mind than just rites-of-spring-break hedonism. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 30 Jan. 2024 The tragic history and rugged landscape provide an evocative backdrop – making hedonism on the Mani coast all the more hedonistic. Rick Steves, Chicago Tribune, 30 Jan. 2024 Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself about her first encounter with the mythical epicenter of American hedonism. Susan Young, Peoplemag, 24 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hedonism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1827, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hedonism was in 1827

Dictionary Entries Near hedonism

Cite this Entry

“Hedonism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hedonism. Accessed 20 May. 2024.

Medical Definition


he·​do·​nism ˈhēd-ᵊn-ˌiz-əm How to pronounce hedonism (audio)
: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life
hedonist noun
hedonistic adjective
hedonistically adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on hedonism

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