noun im·pe·ri·al·ism \ im-ˈpir-ē-ə-ˌli-zəm \
Updated on: 30 Jan 2018

Definition of imperialism

1 : imperial government, authority, or system
2 : the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas; broadly : the extension or imposition of power, authority, or influence
  • union imperialism


play \im-ˈpir-ē-ə-list\ noun or adjective


play \im-ˌpir-ē-ə-ˈli-stik\ adjective


play \im-ˌpir-ē-ə-ˈli-sti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of imperialism in a Sentence

  1. British imperialism created the enormous British Empire.

Recent Examples of imperialism from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'imperialism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Linguistic Roots of imperialism

The original meaning of imperialism was a simple one: "imperial government," that is, empire in the classical sense (such as existed in ancient Rome, China, and Greece). In more recent times, imperialism has become synonymous with western hegemony in Africa and Asia from the 18th through the 20th centuries and with the spreading cultural influence of the United States. Formerly implying military and governmental dominance, the word today is often invoked in a wider variety of contexts, such as cultural imperialism, media imperialism, and economic imperialism. And while there has been considerable debate about net the effects of western dominance in other parts of the world, in its current use, imperialism often carries a negative connotation.

First Known Use of imperialism


IMPERIALISM Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of imperialism for English Language Learners

  • : a policy or practice by which a country increases its power by gaining control over other areas of the world

  • : the effect that a powerful country or group of countries has in changing or influencing the way people live in other, poorer countries

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an inn where caravans rest at night

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