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 How to handle Woodward is a challenge for any White House, but putting Trump on the phone with him for hours was bound, ultimately, to be an exercise in masochism. Rich Lowry, National Review, "Trump’s ‘Play It Down’ Debacle," 11 Sep. 2020 Big business would have to be possessed by an extreme form of masochism to even consider contributing to any rebuilding. Star Tribune, "Readers Write: American veterans, rebuilding Minneapolis," 4 Sep. 2020 That impression of sweatlessness is the masochist’s ideal—and writing, many writers will tell you, is masochism, a torture and a torment, an exercise in mental brick-breaking that justifies itself in pursuit of the apt and elegant line. Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, "Kate Zambreno’s Present Tense," 5 Aug. 2020 In normal times jetting off to Dubai in July is an act of masochism. The Economist, "Viral vacations What it’s like to go on holiday in Dubai during a pandemic," 1 Aug. 2020 To misquote a certain grand marquis, masochism has its rewards. Tony Quiroga, Car and Driver, "2020 Ferrari F8 Spider Protects Your Hearing," 1 July 2020 This becomes part of a compulsion to repeat the experiences of abuse — as tormentor (enhancing sadism) and simultaneously as victim (enhancing masochism). Richard Sandomir, New York Times, "Dr. Leonard Shengold, 94, Psychoanalyst Who Studied Child Abuse, Dies," 4 Feb. 2020 There was no masochism in my returning to that production. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Brian Dennehy Found the Tragic Grandeur in Ordinary Lives," 16 Apr. 2020 The rollicking, anthemic cries that carry the rest of the song could be mistaken for masochism. Natalie Morin,, "BTS Reveal What Matters Most To Them In The Lyrics For “ON”," 24 Feb. 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.

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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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Time Traveler for masochism

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The first known use of masochism was in 1892

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Last Updated

25 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Masochism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for masochism


How to pronounce masochism (audio) How to pronounce masochism (audio)

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

More from Merriam-Webster on masochism

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