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 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 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, "Raoul Peck’s Exterminate All the Brutes Insists on Telling What Really Happened," 16 Apr. 2021 The world is now pushing back against Chinese mercantilism. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "What Will Historians Make of Our Annus Horribilis?," 31 Dec. 2020 The political significance of Mr. Xi’s economic mercantilism is harder to predict. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Tale of Two Chinese Economies," 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, "The Missing China Trade Strategy," 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, "The Davos Crowd Embraces Big Global Government," 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, "Phase One of the China Trade Agreement in Context," 23 Jan. 2020 In negotiations aimed at least in part at curtailing Chinese mercantilism, American representatives requested that China direct bilateral trade from on high. Daniel Tenreiro, National Review, "Phase One of the China Trade Agreement in Context," 23 Jan. 2020 While trade theorists exhorted the US and its partners to practice free trade, China was cleaning America’s clock with an unapologetic strategy of mercantilism. Rober Kuttner, Time, "Trump Will Fail on China Trade War, but Progressive Democrats Must Carry On the Fight," 30 Sep. 2019

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

Time Traveler for mercantilism

Time Traveler

The first known use of mercantilism was in 1838

See more words from the same year

Statistics for mercantilism

Last Updated

20 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mercantilism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on 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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Used by Nabokov Quiz

  • image1676440788
  • Choose the best definition or synonym for the word in bold: "There are some eructations that sound like cheers—at least, mine did." Lolita
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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