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 materialist (audio) \ noun or adjective

Examples of materialism in a Sentence

the materialism of modern society
Recent Examples on the Web How does materialism fit into your thinking about loneliness? Matt Simon, Wired, "This Pandemic Is Lonely. But Don't Call Loneliness an ‘Epidemic’," 5 May 2020 Their life was, culturally speaking, an adjunct to Western Europe and America; their values were a hybrid, in which India was served nominally while the West was reduced to a source of permissiveness and materialism. Aatish Taseer, The Atlantic, "India Is No Longer India," 10 Apr. 2020 But lately American materialism is debuting a new look. Amanda Hess, New York Times, "The New Spiritual Consumerism," 19 Aug. 2019 Fox News host Tucker Carlson argued the prevailing secular materialism of the West has left many people in the United States spiritually ill-equipped to grapple with the upheaval of a pandemic and the possibility of premature death. Jon Brown, Washington Examiner, "'You don't have control': Tucker Carlson says coronavirus pandemic has exposed theological weakness of US," 28 Mar. 2020 Thus Hud, a minor character in Mr. McMurtry’s novel, became the film’s title character and dominant antihero, a symbol of the rapacious greed and materialism that the screenwriters saw spreading in America. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, "Harriet Frank Jr., Writer of Challenging Screenplays, Dies at 96," 28 Jan. 2020 Is the turn toward panpsychism a kind of neo-Romanticism born of our yearning to reënchant the world that materialism has rendered mute? Meghan O’gieblyn, The New Yorker, "Do We Have Minds of Our Own?," 4 Dec. 2019 Conservatives, at least historically, have been willing to take their ideas above the rim of materialism, to argue against scientism and emphasize the transcendent and spiritual. Samuel James, National Review, "There Is No ‘Party of Science’," 14 Feb. 2020 Let these guys soak in the joy of the achievement before drowning them in mindless materialism. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc's Morning Line: What a shallow dude Odell Beckham Jr. must be," 16 Jan. 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

17 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Materialism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for materialism


How to pronounce materialism (audio)

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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