in·​di·​vid·​u·​al·​ism | \ˌin-də-ˈvij-wə-ˌli-zəm, -ˈvi-jə-wə-, -ˈvi-jə-ˌli-\

Definition of individualism 

1a(1) : a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount also : conduct guided by such a doctrine

(2) : the conception that all values, rights, and duties originate in individuals

b : a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests also : conduct or practice guided by such a theory

2a : individuality

b : an individual peculiarity : idiosyncrasy

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Examples of individualism in a Sentence

a society that believes strongly in individualism He was respected for his self-reliance and individualism.

Recent Examples on the Web

The United States may not be allowed to build a medical database of all U.S. citizens, for reasons of privacy, individualism and human rights. Francesco Marconi, WSJ, "Historian Yuval Noah Harari on the Robot Revolution," 27 Sep. 2018 As a result, areas exposed to the church for longer developed more impersonal norms, like individualism and impartial treatment, as opposed to obedience and nepotism. Kevin Lewis,, "Looking for negative signals," 6 July 2018 Democratic majority rule often conflicts with individualism; liberty, with equality; religious freedom, with personal liberation; and internationalist openness, with civic nationalism. Cathy Young,, "Is liberal democracy failing? No, it’s a victim of its own success," 8 July 2018 Putnam criticized the technological individualism encouraged by television and the internet, which had already shown a capacity to promote selfishness. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "What Petty Nextdoor Posts Reveal About America," 20 June 2018 The tension was expressed in popular media as a defense of American individualism against the power and efficacy of Japanese collectivism and corporate culture. Lindsay Grace, Smithsonian, "The Original ‘Space Invaders’ is an Icon of 1970s America’s Deepest Fears," 19 June 2018 The unfolding Koch drama perhaps illustrates the logical endpoint of libertarianism as a philosophy of extreme individualism. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "The Koch Brothers are the Cain and Abel of plutocratic politics.," 8 June 2018 More jurisdiction over finances and health gave rise to a general cultural shift toward individualism. Amy Keller Laird, SELF, "Wellness Instagram Is Actually Bringing Me Down," 21 June 2018 This damaging form of objectification degrades an individual to a single identifier, drowning individualism and perpetuating fetishism. Kelsey Castañon,, "I'm Latinx — & I'm Fed Up With Being Called "Exotic"," 24 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'individualism.' 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 individualism

1815, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

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Last Updated

17 Nov 2018

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The first known use of individualism was in 1815

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More Definitions for individualism



English Language Learners Definition of individualism

: the belief that the needs of each person are more important than the needs of the whole society or group

: the actions or attitudes of a person who does things without being concerned about what other people will think

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to enclose within walls

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