in·​di·​vid·​u·​al·​ism | \ ˌin-də-ˈvij-wə-ˌli-zəm, -ˈvi-jə-wə- How to pronounce individualism (audio) , -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
b : an individual peculiarity : idiosyncrasy

Keep scrolling for more

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 thematic throughline of the films is one of individualism, heroics or success attained in spite of or against powerful outside forces and systems of control. Katie Walsh, Twin Cities, "‘Richard Jewell’ takes Eastwood’s libertarian ethos to questionable ends," 13 Dec. 2019 Narratives of evolution were adapted by social Darwinists who claimed that competitive individualism was not only justifiable, but inevitable. Fay Bound Alberti, Quartz, "The problem with medicalizing loneliness," 25 Nov. 2019 Hyper-individualism is not good for strengthening the ethical fiber of a society. Jim Beckerman, USA TODAY, "Are ethics for suckers? The US has a complicated relationship with right and wrong in 2019," 26 Oct. 2019 As Americans, we are charged with recognizing two conflicting values: individualism and egalitarianism. Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker, "The Equality Conundrum," 6 Jan. 2020 Football is the most collectivist of sports, seemingly at odds with American individualism, but the United States has always been a nation of joiners and a country in thrall to the idea of team. James Surowiecki, New York Times, "Beautiful. Violent. American. The N.F.L. at 100.," 19 Dec. 2019 Strangely, though, the more aristocratic, less meritocratic system of admissions is found not in the country with a House of Lords and a hereditary monarchy, but in the land of rugged individualism. The Economist, "A judge finds there is nothing wrong with Harvard admissions," 5 Oct. 2019 Yet individualism, the other side of that dyad, will not leave Thompson at peace either. Kenneth W. Mack, Washington Post, "A black writer on individualism, identity and indifference in Trump’s America," 19 Dec. 2019 But the more kind of communal understanding and care for one another—that feels like something America, in its hyper-individualism and runaway capitalism, could learn from. Andrew R. Chow, Time, "Playwright David Henry Hwang on Flipping a Flawed Musical on Its Head in Soft Power," 25 Oct. 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of individualism

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about individualism

Time Traveler for individualism

Time Traveler

The first known use of individualism was in 1815

See more words from the same year

Statistics for individualism

Last Updated

10 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Individualism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for individualism


How to pronounce individualism (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on individualism

What made you want to look up individualism? 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

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!