mas·​och·​ism | \ ˈma-sə-ˌki-zəm How to pronounce masochism (audio) , ˈma-zə- How to pronounce masochism (audio) also ˈmā- \

Essential Meaning of masochism

: enjoyment of pain : pleasure that someone gets from being abused or hurt especially : sexual enjoyment from being hurt or punished

Full Definition of masochism

1 : the derivation of sexual gratification from being subjected to physical pain or humiliation by oneself or another person — compare sadism, sadomasochism
2 : pleasure in being abused or dominated : a taste for suffering

What is the Difference Between the Words masochism & sadism?

Masochism and sadism are both about the enjoyment of pain. Masochism refers to the enjoyment of experiencing pain while sadism refers to the enjoyment of inflicting pain on someone else.

Interestingly, both masochism and sadism are eponymous words. English has thousands of such words, taken from the names of people both real and fictional. Masochism comes from the name of the 19th century German novelist, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. It is unusual in that it began to be used during the lifetime of the man from whom it originated (Sacher-Masoch died in 1895, and masochism had been in printed use since 1892). Sadism comes from the name of the French writer, the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814).

The two words are not only often encountered in connection with one another, they have been combined into a single word, sadomasochism.

Examples of masochism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Remember that the point of setting difficult goals isn’t masochism. Mark Murphy, Forbes, 28 Oct. 2021 Even beyond skincare rituals and charitable challenges, masochism is everywhere: in gyms and hot sauce bottles, spas and dungeons alike. Leigh Cowart, Wired, 30 Sep. 2021 Her characters’ masochism, and, at moments, the reader’s sadism, is elicited by the recognition that there is rarely another way of holding men accountable. Merve Emre, The New York Review of Books, 22 Oct. 2020 How to reconcile such self-abnegating masochism with her joyous recollection of discovering herself with Sartre? Merve Emre, The New Yorker, 23 Aug. 2021 In the lives of her heroines, the mourning sometimes took the form of masochism. Caleb Crain, The Atlantic, 10 Aug. 2021 Allowing games like Sea of Solitude to help those struggling to gain control within their limits, take the initiative, self-evaluate, gain higher morals and step away from those who live their life in masochism towards you and others. Zane Pickett, Forbes, 13 May 2021 One psychiatrist declares Holiday a psychopath; others attribute her beatings by assorted men to masochism. New York Times, 18 Feb. 2021 Will Knowland would be an act of institutional masochism the likes of which Eton has not seen in its recent history. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 4 Dec. 2020

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

1892, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for masochism

borrowed from German Masochismus, from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch †1895 Austrian fiction writer and journalist + -ismus -ism

Note: The German noun was coined by Richard von krafft-ebing, probably first in Neue Forschungen auf dem Gebiet der Psychopathia sexualis (Stuttgart, 1890), p. 1 ff. Krafft-Ebing describes the coinage as follows: "Diese im folgenden zu besprechenden Perversionen der Vita sexualis mögen Masochismus genannt werden, da der bekannte Romanschriftsteller Sacher Masoch in zahlreichen seiner Romanen, ganz besonders in seiner bekannten "Die Venus im Pelz", diese eigene Art der sexuellen Perversion zum Lieblingsgegenstand seiner Schriften gemacht hat." ("The perversions of sexual life to be discussed in what follows may be named masochism, as the well-known novelist Sacher Masoch has made this particular type of sexual perversion a favorite object of his writing in a number of his novels, especially in his well-known Venus in Fur.") The same passage appears in the article "Ueber Masochismus," in the Wiener Medizinische Blätter, No. 52 (December 25, 1890), p. 817.

Learn More About masochism

Time Traveler for masochism

Time Traveler

The first known use of masochism was in 1892

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near masochism




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for masochism

Last Updated

25 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Masochism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for masochism


mas·​och·​ism | \ ˈmas-ə-ˌkiz-əm How to pronounce masochism (audio) , ˈmaz- How to pronounce masochism (audio) \

Medical Definition of masochism

: a sexual perversion characterized by pleasure in being subjected to pain or humiliation especially by a love object — compare algolagnia, sadism

Other Words from masochism

masochistic \ ˌmas-​ə-​ˈkis-​tik How to pronounce masochism (audio) , ˌmaz-​ How to pronounce masochism (audio) \ adjective
masochistically \ ˌmas-​ə-​ˈkis-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce masochism (audio) , ˌmaz-​ How to pronounce masochism (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on masochism

Nglish: Translation of masochism for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about masochism


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!