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 They are rooted in the spiritual world—a realm that feels lost amid our own tumult of materialism. Sara Wheeler, WSJ, "‘Other Worlds’ Review: Sketches of a Spiritual Country," 23 Apr. 2021 A generation ago, success meant materialism and keeping up with the Joneses. Tien Tzuo, Fortune, "It’s the end of manufacturing as we know it (and I feel fine)," 14 Apr. 2021 The two lyricists found themselves in a genre now ruled by materialism. Troy L. Smith, cleveland, "200 greatest hip-hop songs of all time," 13 Apr. 2021 Its production pedigree and glib roasting of materialism through the magic-using preppy Kaz set it apart from the majority of animated and live-action series alike. Eric Vilas-boas, Vulture, "The 50 Best Anime Series on Netflix Right Now," 5 Apr. 2021 Dennett’s comment annoyed me at first; Life just gives him an excuse to reiterate his defense of hard-core materialism. John Horgan, Scientific American, "Quantum Mechanics, Free Will and the Game of Life," 14 Feb. 2021 Instead, high cost of living, time constraints and work demands contributed to an oppressive culture of materialism and workaholism. Robert Litchfield, The Conversation, "What inspired digital nomads to flee America’s big cities may spur legions of remote workers to do the same," 12 Apr. 2021 The film would win the Academy Award for Best Picture and the adoration of legions of fans while capturing the lonesome bravado and sordid materialism of America in its crass urban decline. Washington Post, "‘Midnight Cowboy’ was a masterpiece made of desperation," 31 Mar. 2021 The fifth and final single from Born to Die is a playful take on love as materialism, with a dark underbelly. Richard S. He, Billboard, "Every Lana Del Rey Song, Ranked: Critic's List," 28 Aug. 2019

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of materialism was in 1696

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Statistics for materialism

Last Updated

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Materialism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 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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