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

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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 From the beginning, the delusion of American individualism and the angst of an uncertain end date have blocked hordes of people from realizing or acknowledging that there is only one safe way to do this. Casey Taylor, The New Republic, "Inside the Hostage Crisis of America’s Dying Restaurants," 11 Dec. 2020 This is perhaps linked to a stronger identification with individualism. Will Johnson, STAT, "The pursuit of purpose may have turned the course of this year’s presidential election," 13 Nov. 2020 In an age of intense individualism, creative workers were largely left to fend for themselves. Robin Kaiser-schatzlein, The New Republic, "The Artist Isn’t Dead," 4 Jan. 2021 To exchange a bit of our rugged individualism for curiosity about people who look different from us. Time Staff, Time, "The TIME 2030 Committee Offers 8 Solutions for a More Equitable and Sustainable Future," 22 Jan. 2021 In the 1950s, American sociologists worried that rampant individualism was tearing the family apart. Johan Norberg, WSJ, "Why We Can’t Stop Longing for the Good Old Days," 26 Dec. 2020 Our ingenuity will again save us from our individualism — and there might not be anything more American than that. Kyle Whitmire, al, "The perfect weapon," 29 Nov. 2020 Pond, who said she's tried to remain apolitical in her 30 years in public health, is growing increasingly frustrated by her neighbors' insistence on preserving their rugged individualism at the cost of community health. USA Today, "Republican leaders beg 'knuckleheads' to stay safe as COVID cases soar in rural, red states," 16 Nov. 2020 How do different groups of people react to these aspirational ideals of individualism, equality of opportunity, self-governance and engaged citizenship? Anil Ananthaswamy, Smithsonian Magazine, "How the Belief in American Exceptionalism Has Shaped the Pandemic Response," 18 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for individualism

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The first known use of individualism was in 1815

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Statistics for individualism

Last Updated

24 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Individualism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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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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