na·​tion·​al·​ism | \ ˈnash-nə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce nationalism (audio) , 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

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

Lauded at times abroad for his advocacy of multilateralism and his opposition to nationalism, Mr. Macron at home is painted by critics as out of touch with common people. Sam Schechner, WSJ, "French Drivers Spark Broad Protest Against Macron," 18 Nov. 2018 Iran has held major sway over Iraq’s governments since the 2003 war ended Sunni minority rule, but campaigning saw multiple appeals to Iraqi nationalism, especially from al-Sadr. Khalid Al Ansary,, "Shiite Cleric Who Once Fought U.S. Leads in Iraqi Election Count," 14 May 2018 Macron also used a ceremony commemorating Australia’s wartime cooperation with France to highlight a global worldview as a counter to nationalism. Washington Post, "France, Australia call on China to observe rules," 2 May 2018 There have been some signs of increasing opposition to Modi's economic policies and to the BJP's muscular Hindu nationalism. Raju Gopalakrishnan, The Christian Science Monitor, "Indian journalists face consequences if critical of Modi's administration," 26 Apr. 2018 Protesters have sought to shut down his events to keep him from academic platforms that might confer legitimacy to white nationalism. Susan Svrluga,, "'Antifa is winning': Richard Spencer rethinks his college tour after violent protests," 12 Mar. 2018 China’s bellicose regional military posture during Xi’s tenure reflects his need to appeal to Chinese nationalism. Therese Shaheen, National Review, "The Digital Emperor of China’s Surveillance State," 25 Jan. 2018 There is more to America than the White House, with its bellicose nationalism, and the elite universities, with their tedious orthodoxies. The Economist, "The special relationship once enriched Britain’s politics. No longer," 5 July 2018 His virulent Malay nationalism alienated Malaysia’s sizable Chinese and Indian minorities. New York Times, "Malaysia Finds an Unlikely Champion of Democracy: Its Ex-Strongman," 11 May 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 How to pronounce nationalism (audio) \

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 or proceed with twists and turns

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

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!