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

The pope was basically on America’s Avenue, complete with a little religion, a lot of materialism, endless people streaming through. Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review, "Fifth Avenue, New York City," 22 Aug. 2019 The hajj in Islam is meant to unify Muslims, with pilgrims shedding displays of wealth and materialism. Washington Post, "Over 2 million Muslims in Mecca for start of hajj pilgrimage," 10 Aug. 2019 Some kids in households with less disposable income had difficulty fitting in because materialism was key to assimilation. Joshua Burrell,, "Joshua Burrell: Growing up black in Columbia," 1 Aug. 2019 As men of morals who define themselves against liberalism’s crassness, materialism, and lack of self-restraint, they either support or show sympathy for a presidential caricature of the Seven Deadly Sins. Alexander Zaitchik, The New Republic, "Is Josh Hawley For Real?," 25 July 2019 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 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 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 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

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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Statistics for materialism

Last Updated

21 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for materialism

The first known use of materialism was in 1696

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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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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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formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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