na·​tion·​al·​ism | \ˈnash-nə-ˌli-zəm, ˈna-shə-nə-ˌli-zəm\

Definition of nationalism 

1 : loyalty and devotion to a nation especially : a sense of national consciousness (see consciousness sense 1c) exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups Intense nationalism was one of the causes of the war.

2 : a nationalist movement or government opposing nationalisms

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for nationalism



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

The Difference Between Nationalism, Patriotism, Sectionalism, and Jingoism

Nationalism has a number of near-synonyms, each of which carries its own distinct meaning. Patriotism is similar insofar as it emphasizes strong feelings for one’s country, but it does not necessarily imply an attitude of superiority. Sectionalism resembles nationalism in its suggestion of a geopolitical group pursuing its self-interest, but the group in question is usually smaller than an entire nation. Jingoism closely resembles nationalism in suggesting feelings of cultural superiority, but unlike nationalism, it always implies military aggressiveness.

Examples of nationalism in a Sentence

The war was caused by nationalism and greed. Nazism's almost epic nationalism appealed to downtrodden Germans still suffering the humiliation of being defeated in World War I.

Recent Examples on the Web

In this era of heightened nationalism, Baruch’s observations deserve renewed consideration. WSJ, "The Big Guns Fell Silent at the Right Time," 22 Nov. 2018 The issue of white nationalism in powerlifting has gotten some attention online in the last couple of months, due in part to the actions of a few semi-popular online powerlifting demi-lebrities. Casey Johnston, SELF, "Ask a Swole Woman: How Can I Find Safe and Inclusive Gyms?," 23 Oct. 2018 Spencer coined the term ‘‘alt-right’’ to describe a fringe movement that is a loose mix of white nationalism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other far-right extremist beliefs. Michael Kunzelman,, "White nationalist says he was blocked from entering Europe," 6 July 2018 The fallout contributed to the election in 2014 of Narendra Modi, India’s strongman leader, who pushed an agenda of Hindu nationalism, clean government and development. The Economist, "The tycoons who are powering India’s rise," 5 July 2018 In the middle of the century, patriotism, nationalism, xenophobia, and an emphasis on traditional family structures proliferated regardless of party identity. Emily Atkin, The New Republic, "Why Do Carrot Hot Dogs Make You So Mad?," 3 July 2018 As a result, the youth will lose a sense of nationalism, patriotism and national unity. Alan Cowell, New York Times, "Seminude School Performance Sparks Debate About Tradition in South Africa," 2 June 2018 But that liberalism is under several kinds of pressure in our era of rising nationalism and religious extremism. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, "Why Jewish History Is So Hard to Write," 14 Mar. 2018 Humiliation, the spirit of revenge, economic and moral crises, fed the rise of nationalism and totalitarianism. Vivian Salama, WSJ, "Macron Sounds Warning on Nationalism as Leaders Mark Armistice Day," 11 Nov. 2018

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

1798, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for nationalism



English Language Learners Definition of nationalism

: a feeling that people have of being loyal to and proud of their country often with the belief that it is better and more important than other countries

: a desire by a large group of people (such as people who share the same culture, history, language, etc.) to form a separate and independent nation of their own


na·​tion·​al·​ism | \ˈna-shə-nə-ˌli-zəm \

Kids Definition of nationalism

: devotion to the interests of a certain country and belief that it is better and more important than other countries

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on nationalism

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


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!