mer·​can·​til·​ism | \ ˈmər-kən-ˌtē-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce mercantilism (audio) , -ˌtī-, -tə- \

Definition of mercantilism

1 : the theory or practice of mercantile pursuits : commercialism
2 : an economic system developing during the decay of feudalism to unify and increase the power and especially the monetary wealth of a nation by a strict governmental regulation of the entire national economy usually through policies designed to secure an accumulation of bullion (see bullion sense 1), a favorable balance of trade, the development of agriculture and manufactures, and the establishment of foreign trading monopolies (see monopoly sense 1)

Other Words from mercantilism

mercantilist \ ˈmər-​kən-​ˌtē-​list How to pronounce mercantilism (audio) , -​ˌtī-​ , -​tə-​ \ noun or adjective
mercantilistic \ ˌmər-​kən-​ˌtē-​ˈli-​stik How to pronounce mercantilism (audio) , -​ˌtī-​ , -​tə-​ \ adjective

Examples of mercantilism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Yet European policy is still too driven by mercantilism, as illustrated by France and Germany’s rush to sign Europe up to an investment agreement with China at the end of 2020. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, WSJ, 10 Oct. 2021 Economic relations need to consider China’s often predatory mercantilism, IP theft and cyber spying. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 6 May 2021 After European mercantilism exploded into early forms of empire in the 16th century, the ensuing markets of enslavement and exploitation fostered a logic of racial hierarchy that persists into the present day. Jo Livingstone, The New Republic, 16 Apr. 2021 The world is now pushing back against Chinese mercantilism. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, 31 Dec. 2020 The political significance of Mr. Xi’s economic mercantilism is harder to predict. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 25 Sep. 2020 More ominously, China’s mercantilism is part of a larger Xi Jinping strategy to establish a new military and commercial hegemony in Asia. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 18 Sep. 2018 This dichotomy suggests that citizens of Western democracies face a choice between a globalist economic and political order—of which stakeholder advocacy is a part—and a retreat into mercantilism, nativism and cultural stasis. Richard J. Shinder, WSJ, 26 Jan. 2020 The economic priorities branch out into two further categories: (1) reducing distortions to the global economy caused by Chinese mercantilism or (2) reducing the bilateral trade deficit. Daniel Tenreiro, National Review, 23 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mercantilism.' 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 mercantilism

1838, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of mercantilism was in 1838

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Dictionary Entries Near mercantilism

mercantile paper



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Cite this Entry

“Mercantilism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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