ma·​te·​ri·​al·​ism mə-ˈtir-ē-ə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce materialism (audio)
: 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
: a doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress
: a doctrine that economic or social change is materially caused compare historical materialism
: a preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things
materialism, hedonism, and the overriding quest for personal gratificationA. M. Schlesinger, Jr.
materialist noun or adjective

Examples of materialism in a Sentence

the materialism of modern society
Recent Examples on the Web For example, materialism is associated with negative self-appraisal including self-doubt, as well as risky health behaviors such as smoking and drinking alcohol. Talia Varley, Fortune, 12 Mar. 2024 Is this about hygiene, or just materialism — the need to accumulate and display objects, as proof of sophistication? Ligaya Mishan Kyoko Hamada, New York Times, 18 Feb. 2024 Through its near-three-hour runtime, the film explores greed and corruption, the empty pursuit of materialism (and '80s specialty), and the tragic human cost of one man's selfish ambitions. Dennis Perkins,, 10 Nov. 2023 People seduced by superficial materialism, drowning in social media and the omnipresent noise of the culture will continue to raise questions about the value of a traditional higher education. Jim Miller, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 Dec. 2023 Gratitude tie-in: Gratitude exists on a parallel plane from this book, but its preoccupation with self-determination (as an alternative to peer pressure) offers a different, equally valuable lesson for parents looking to counterbalance messages of materialism during the holidays. Roxana Popescu, San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Nov. 2023 Exuding a raw, hard-hitting beat with a pulsating bassline that demands attention, Jay Wheeler and Arcángel make a powerful statement about wealth, materialism and the true value of knowledge and integrity over material possessions. Ingrid Fajardo, Billboard, 27 Oct. 2023 Around that time, other alternative-leaning acts such as the Fugees and De La Soul were also dismissive of hip-hop’s materialism and frivolity. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 15 Sep. 2023 American Psycho Based upon the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name, is a deeply unsettling exploration of the consumerism, shallow materialism, and trite vanity that plagued much of the American 1980s and continues to today. Men's Health, 17 Mar. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'materialism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1696, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of materialism was in 1696

Dictionary Entries Near materialism

Cite this Entry

“Materialism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ma·​te·​ri·​al·​ism mə-ˈtir-ē-ə-ˌliz-əm How to pronounce materialism (audio)
: a theory that everything can be explained as being or coming from matter
: a tendency to attach too much importance to physical comfort and well-being
materialist noun or adjective
materialistic adjective
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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