ma·​te·​ri·​al·​ism | \ mə-ˈtir-ē-ə-ˌli-zəm \

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 \ noun or adjective
materialistic \ mə-​ˌtir-​ē-​ə-​ˈlis-​tik \ adjective
materialistically \ mə-​ˌtir-​ē-​ə-​ˈlis-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Examples of materialism in a Sentence

the materialism of modern society

Recent Examples on the Web

Our society is driven by rampant materialism, and prepping is no exception. Jamie Lauren Keiles, Vox, "What doomsday preppers are buying this Black Friday," 21 Nov. 2018 Musicians are not unique here: In the years since the Reagan administration, a reveling in what used to be called heartless materialism has become de rigueur. Scott Timberg, Vox, "How music has responded to a decade of economic inequality," 30 July 2018 Is Prime Day a mildly craven capitalistic construct determined to invoke a Pavlovian FOMO response rooted in Western materialism? The Editors Of Gq, GQ, "Amazon Prime Day 2018: Everything You Need to Know," 3 July 2018 Sociologists speculated that there was something unique about the empty materialism and stifling conformity of Japanese society that drove youngsters to look for an alternative. The Economist, "On the hanging of Shoko Asahara, Japan’s nerve-gas guru," 12 July 2018 By December, King announced plans for the Poor People’s Campaign, which would launch the following spring by bringing caravans of people to Washington, D.C. to protest poverty, militarism, and materialism. Livia Gershon, Longreads, "The Prosperity Plea," 30 May 2018 Most people described luxury as a slowing down of time, enjoying life; less about materialism and more about emotional experience. Mark Holgate, Vogue, "Jaime Pearlman Talks About the Cheap (and Chic) Thrills of Her New Magazine More or Less," 31 May 2018 But if the point is to show them as a liberated alternative to conventional materialism, Threepenny Opera-style, it is largely lost in the film adaptation. Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Great Mystical Circus' ('O Grande Circo Mistico'): Film Review | Cannes 2018," 13 May 2018 Omnipotent police presence, children rioting, and the biblical reference of Death riding a pale white horse are all overlooked due to popularity of Black culture and messages that prioritize materialism over our survival. Candace Mcduffie, Glamour, "Let's Acknowledge the Artists That Paved the Way for Donald Glover's 'This Is America'," 8 May 2018

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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Last Updated

28 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for materialism

The first known use of materialism was in 1696

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More Definitions for materialism



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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More from Merriam-Webster on materialism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with materialism

Spanish Central: Translation of materialism

Nglish: Translation of materialism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of materialism for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about materialism

Comments on materialism

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tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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