me·​lio·​rism ˈmēl-yə-ˌri-zəm How to pronounce meliorism (audio)
: the belief that the world tends to improve and that humans can aid its betterment
ˈmēl-yə-rist How to pronounce meliorism (audio)
adjective or noun
ˌmēl-yə-ˈri-stik How to pronounce meliorism (audio)

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In 1877, British novelist George Eliot believed she had coined meliorist when she wrote, "I don't know that I ever heard anybody use the word 'meliorist' except myself." Her contemporaries credited her with coining both meliorist and meliorism, and one of her letters contains an early documented use of meliorism; however, there is evidence that meliorist had been around decades before she started using it. Whoever coined it did so by drawing on the Latin melior, meaning "better." It is likely that the English coinages were also influenced by another melior descendant, meliorate, a synonym of ameliorate ("to make better or more tolerable") that was introduced to English in the 1500s.

Examples of meliorism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Under their malign sway, as cost-benefit analysis became codified in government bureaus and standards of jurisprudence, previously bold Democrats reduced their dreams for betterment to feeble meliorism. Idrees Kahloon, The New Yorker, 16 May 2022 Goodhart reckons the positional nature of status — man’s envy plays a part in this puzzle, mind you — and the kind of economic meliorism that the center-left of his formative years applies to income inequality may fail to do the trick this time. Jorge González-Gallarza Hernández, National Review, 6 Dec. 2020 To its critics, this modesty and meliorism represent cowardice. Rosa Inocencio Smith, The Atlantic, 10 Aug. 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'meliorism.' 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

1877, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of meliorism was in 1877


Dictionary Entries Near meliorism

Cite this Entry

“Meliorism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

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