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

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

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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

And pool parties, as University of Mississippi student Baylor Pillow argues, are a tale of masochism in multiple acts. Robin Givhan, Washington Post, "Pool parties are soul-crushing spectacles of half-naked strangers posing next to an artificial swamp," 5 Aug. 2019 But the show too often feels like an exercise in liberal masochism. Judy Berman, Time, "HBO's Quasi-Dystopian Years and Years Is the Future Liberals Fear," 22 June 2019 The idea of natural female masochism, Dworkin notes, is woven through the work of psychoanalysts, psychologists, and naturalists, as well as imaginative literature, art, and popular culture. Elaine Blair, The New York Review of Books, "Fighting for Her Life," 17 June 2019 According to Buzzfeed, the two bonded over BDSM, which stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism. Blake Bakkila, Good Housekeeping, "Who Is Nicholas Godejohn? Inside Gypsy Rose Blanchard's Relationship With Her Mother's Killer," 3 Apr. 2019 This was an assignment for a lawyer driven by a bold mission and a small measure of masochism, not one in pursuit of glamour or safety. Jackson Holahan, The Christian Science Monitor, "'The Good Mothers' profiles the female prosecutor who took on Italy's mafia," 6 June 2018 Those who practice bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism (B.D.S.M.) have rules for protecting boundaries, safety and consent. New York Times, "The Boundary Between Abuse and B.D.S.M.," 23 May 2018 Listening to your girlfriend cry through the wall is a form of emotional masochism that will not aid in your recovery! Anna Pulley, RedEye Chicago, "Ask Anna: How do I leave a toxic relationship?," 23 Oct. 2017 The story brought new attention to the world of kink that’s often known as BDSM — standing for variations of bondage, dominance, submission and masochism. Washington Post, "‘Kink community’ angry at New York attorney general comments," 10 May 2018

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.

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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.

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Dictionary Entries near masochism


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Statistics for masochism

Last Updated

9 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for masochism

The first known use of masochism was in 1892

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More Definitions for masochism



English Language Learners Definition of masochism

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


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

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More from Merriam-Webster on masochism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with masochism

Spanish Central: Translation of masochism

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

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a period when something is suspended

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