ma·​te·​ri·​al·​ism | \ mə-ˈtir-ē-ə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce materialism (audio) \

Definition of materialism

1a : a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter (see matter entry 1 sense 2) scientific materialism
b : a doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress
c : a doctrine that economic or social change is materially caused — compare historical materialism
2 : a preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things materialism, hedonism, and the overriding quest for personal gratification— A. M. Schlesinger, Jr.

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Other Words from materialism

materialist \ mə-​ˈtir-​ē-​ə-​list How to pronounce materialism (audio) \ noun or adjective

Examples of materialism in a Sentence

the materialism of modern society
Recent Examples on the Web Dammann argued that a successful society can rise above materialism and that being content with your material wealth is a virtue. Rick Steves,, "Rick Steves’ Europe: Norway is the old country and a new outlook," 30 Mar. 2021 No wonder, then, that some scientists and philosophers have challenged scientific realism and its corollary, materialism, which decrees that reality consists of matter. John Horgan, Scientific American, "I'm Agonizing over My Naive Realism," 19 Mar. 2021 There had been a riot of individualistic materialism, under which complete freedom for the individual . . . Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "The Ghost of Theodore Roosevelt," 28 Feb. 2021 Katherine Vetne was inspired by scrolling through online wedding registries to create warped versions of upscale household items—satires of materialism that evoke gracious living after the apocalypse. Peter Saenger, WSJ, "America Made by Hand," 15 Jan. 2021 Likewise, the excited materialism and high fashion that helped define the series, particularly in the world of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw, was no longer fun to watch. Matthew Gilbert,, "More ‘Sex and the City’? Not tonight, we’re tired.," 14 Jan. 2021 So the shift is going away from materialism and really thinking about the masses as opposed to our individual desires. Stephanie Long,, "Here’s How Black Women Can Get What They Deserve In 2021, According To Astrology," 12 Jan. 2021 Prominent scientists and philosophers are questioning whether physics and indeed the basic paradigm of materialism can account for life and consciousness. John Horgan, Scientific American, "Is the Schrödinger Equation True?," 7 Jan. 2021 Adams was, above all, a critic of the materialism of the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Diane Scharper, Washington Examiner, "Who was Henry Adams?," 31 Dec. 2020

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

1696, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for materialism

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The first known use of materialism was in 1696

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Statistics for materialism

Last Updated

14 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Materialism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of materialism

: a way of thinking that gives too much importance to material possessions rather than to spiritual or intellectual things
philosophy : the belief that only material things exist

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