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)

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from mercantilism

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

Examples of mercantilism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Hume was no fan of slavery, mercantilism, or the apparatus of imperialism; Adam Smith, his compatriot, was more outspoken about these evils still. Kwame Anthony Appiah, The New York Review of Books, "Dialectics of Enlightenment," 9 May 2019 Some analysts have described the nation’s evolving trade approach as mercantilism, a government effort to prop up exports and restrain imports in pursuit of trade and financial surpluses. Jon Hilsenrath, WSJ, "Under Trump, a Strong Economy but Murky Policy Outlook," 1 Apr. 2018 First, policymaking suffers as, instead of a coherent programme, America undergoes government by impulse—anger, nativism, mercantilism—beyond the reach of empirical argument. The Economist, "The Republican Party is organised around one man," 19 Apr. 2018 The Trump administration is right to make Chinese mercantilism an issue, Mr. Cass says, but its response has been ineffectual. Jason Willick, WSJ, "Conservatives and the Politics of Work," 23 Nov. 2018 The economy is on an upswing, propped up by debt but also, for now, defying conventional theories that mercantilism will sap China’s creative vigor. Andrew Browne, WSJ, "If This Is a Trade War, China’s Winning," 26 Sep. 2017 His steel and aluminum tariffs punish friends who could forge an alliance against Chinese mercantilism. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Disruption Isn’t Enough," 10 June 2018 The Economist was founded in opposition to tariffs and mercantilism. The Economist, "America’s allies should stand up to its reckless trade policy," 7 June 2018 Economists have begun to rethink the effectiveness of the postwar trade regime, thanks to China’s blatant mercantilism, theft of intellectual property, distortive subsidies, and determination to displace Western industry. Thomas J. Duesterberg, WSJ, "Trump Needs Allies on Trade," 23 Apr. 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of mercantilism

1838, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mercantilism

Statistics for mercantilism

Last Updated

5 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mercantilism

The first known use of mercantilism was in 1838

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on mercantilism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mercantilism Encyclopedia article about mercantilism

Comments on mercantilism

What made you want to look up mercantilism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


food or victuals

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!