mod·​ern·​ism | \ ˈmä-dər-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce modernism (audio) \

Definition of modernism

1 : a practice, usage, or expression peculiar to modern times such modernisms as "blog," "bromance," and "steampunk"
2 often capitalized : a tendency in theology to accommodate traditional religious teaching to contemporary thought and especially to devalue supernatural elements
3 : modern artistic or literary philosophy and practice especially : a self-conscious break with the past and a search for new forms of expression extols the … modernism that laid the foundation of all twentieth-century design — Jeffrey Simpson

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Other Words from modernism

modernist \ ˈmä-​dər-​nist How to pronounce modernism (audio) \ noun or adjective
modernistic \ ˌmä-​dər-​ˈni-​stik How to pronounce modernism (audio) \ adjective

Examples of modernism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web During the military dictatorship from the 1960s through the 1980s, furniture exports were banned, prohibiting Brazilian modernism from reaching the global stage. Stefanie Waldek, House Beautiful, 6 July 2021 Taking inspiration from geometric forms and mid-century modernism, expect contemporary, bold, and sculptural expressionism that makes use of pastel tones. Felicity Carter, Forbes, 11 June 2021 The images evoke both Caribbean dance traditions and midcentury choreographic modernism, just as the music layers Latin American idioms onto a sturdy show-tune infrastructure. New York Times, 9 June 2021 Traditionalists use it in diatribes against modernism. Nic Rowan, National Review, 29 May 2021 Edwards’s work shatters the neutrality of high modernism and maps whole new inner worlds and histories. Jerry Saltz, Vulture, 25 Feb. 2021 The critic posited flatness and appeals to eyesight alone as the destiny of new painting, as preordained by modernism. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 9 Nov. 2020 Not when the taciturn painter has been elevated into a master teacher, and his distorted spaces into the starting pistol of modernism. Jason Farago, New York Times, 27 June 2021 Richard Wright’s time at the FWP was marked by a honing of his literary craft toward a new kind of modernism that was unabashedly political. Max Holleran, The New Republic, 15 June 2021

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

1737, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of modernism was in 1737

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Last Updated

19 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Modernism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jul. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of modernism

: a style of art, architecture, literature, etc., that uses ideas and methods which are very different from those used in the past


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