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 In the early state of modernism, in the 1920s, ’30s, there was a dream about a [more artistic] modern architecture, but now [buildings] only need to function. Cody Delistraty, WSJ, "Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Radical Traditionalism," 28 Apr. 2021 Signature Style Understated modernism that emphasizes sartorial elegance. Melissa Feldman And Parker Bowie Larson, ELLE Decor, "These 12 Family-Run Companies Are the Beating Heart of Italian Design," 22 Apr. 2021 Alfred Stieglitz began exhibiting photographs in New York in the early 1900s as part of his project of introducing modernism to America. Washington Post, "The art of the photograph; the photograph as art," 16 Apr. 2021 If the point is merely to say that modernism in literature was established over the decade of the 1920s, and not solely in 1922, when those two extraordinarily powerful and important works came out, why not just say that? New York Times, "How Has Amazon Affected America? And Other Letters to the Editor," 16 Apr. 2021 Local modernism fans schedule events here each year, showcasing the region’s top midcentury architecture and designs. Rosemary Mcclure, Los Angeles Times, "It’s Modernism Week in Palm Springs. This DIY tour points the way," 9 Apr. 2021 This was the year that deconstruction and modernism were born. New York Times, "Landing in California, Remembering Tolstoy and Other Letters to the Editor," 9 Apr. 2021 In a 19th-century neighborhood in Mexico City, a jewel of 20th-century Mexican modernism sits quietly tucked away among the trees. Camille Okhio, ELLE Decor, "This Is the Mexico City Nest of a Designer About to Take Flight," 24 Mar. 2021 This figure is America’s answer to European modernism’s deracinated antihero. Vivian Gornick, The New York Review of Books, "Sex, Noir & Isolation," 9 Mar. 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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Time Traveler for modernism

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The first known use of modernism was in 1737

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Last Updated

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Modernism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 May. 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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