im·​pres·​sion·​ism im-ˈpre-shə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce impressionism (audio)
often capitalized : a theory or practice in painting especially among French painters of about 1870 of depicting the natural appearances of objects by means of dabs or strokes of primary unmixed colors in order to simulate actual reflected light
: the depiction (as in literature) of scene, emotion, or character by details intended to achieve a vividness or effectiveness more by evoking subjective and sensory impressions than by recreating an objective reality
: a style of musical composition designed to create subtle moods and impressions

Examples of impressionism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The rest of the program, devoted to French impressionism, delivered more mixed results. Dallas News, 30 June 2022 The scenes set in the past were shot in 16mm, capturing the impressionism of memory; digital camera work for 2013 brings a painful present into sharp relief. John Hopewell, Variety, 14 Oct. 2023 The pictures beneath the wire sculptures are more akin to French impressionism than to shanshui, and overall, Lin-Lin’s work gives a more luxuriant impression than Bertrand’s. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 26 May 2023 Wedded to an argument, the scientific facts speak far more compellingly to the glory of tropical nature than lyrical impressionism, and meanwhile Forsyth and Miyata, as neutral bringers of fact, remain immune to the suspicion of seeking admiration. Jonathan Franzen, The New Yorker, 12 Aug. 2023 Like in art, after worshiping artists whose work matched life with no brushstrokes, immaculate and seemingly out of reach, there was suddenly a move to impressionism. Kristin Guy, Sunset Magazine, 16 Mar. 2023 His influences ranged from the impressionism of Ravel and Debussy to the energy and harmonic invention of bebop. Chris Morris, Variety, 9 Feb. 2023 The art of French impressionism and specialty cocktail making will be on display when French 75 opens sometime this summer in downtown Aurora. Steve Lord,, 18 June 2021 Why impressionism? Wyatt Mason, Harper’s Magazine , 6 Jan. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1877, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of impressionism was in 1877

Dictionary Entries Near impressionism

Cite this Entry

“Impressionism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


im·​pres·​sion·​ism im-ˈpresh-ə-ˌniz-əm How to pronounce impressionism (audio)
often capitalized : a style of painting beginning in France around 1870 in which dabs or strokes of primary colors are used to give the effect of light actually reflected from things
: a style of musical composition designed to create moods through rich and varied harmonies
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