mer·​can·​til·​ism ˈmər-kən-ˌtē-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce mercantilism (audio)
: the theory or practice of mercantile pursuits : commercialism
: 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)
ˈmər-kən-ˌtē-list How to pronounce mercantilism (audio)
noun or adjective
mercantilistic adjective

Examples of mercantilism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Through mercantilism and colonization, Europeans sought natural resources abroad in order to increase their power at home. Kathleen Duval, The Atlantic, 2 Apr. 2024 Purveyors of the myth that free trade is always good and more is always better are eager to dismiss the havoc wreaked by the introduction of China’s aggressive mercantilism into the global market as an outlier or the exception that proves the rule. Oren Cass, Foreign Affairs, 12 Feb. 2021 Smith’s book, published in 1776, meant to oppose a prevalent economic strategy in eighteenth-century Britain—the nationalist and protectionist system of mercantilism—by explaining how free trade and the division of labor create more national wealth. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 17 July 2023 Both parties have drifted closer to something like mercantilism; the language of the market has lost its magic. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 17 July 2023 Even in the face of new economic challenges—China’s aggressive mercantilism, the financial crisis, rising inequality—the Republican Party has hewed rigidly to an agenda of tax and spending cuts, deregulation, and free trade. Oren Cass, Foreign Affairs, 12 Feb. 2021 Participants considered inflation and the national debt to be some of the biggest threats facing the American economy, but there were also growing concerns about Chinese mercantilism and the breakdown of the family. Kevin Roberts, National Review, 4 Aug. 2022 Adam Smith attacked mercantilism because its tinkering in the economy for special business reasons made citizens worse off by shrinking income and living standards. R. Glenn Hubbard, National Review, 1 Mar. 2022 Part of Smith’s intellectual assault on mercantilism was to attack the power of special interests. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 4 Mar. 2022

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

1838, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of mercantilism was in 1838

Dictionary Entries Near mercantilism

Cite this Entry

“Mercantilism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2024.

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