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

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 Facebook may be used around the world to stoke nationalism and populist anger, but its ostensible guiding values are remarkably similar to those of the Liberal Democrats. Casey Newton, The Verge, "How platforms are driving users to misinformation about mail bombs," 27 Oct. 2018 His comments exemplified his call for reforms at a world body whose shortcomings have been exposed over issues like Syria's devastating 7-1/2-year war and rising nationalism. Jamey Keaten, Fox News, "UN rights chief warns UN could 'collapse' without change," 21 Aug. 2018 Realistic or not, the allure of his message is steeped in the language of nostalgia for a better time — and in a sense of economic nationalism that some fear could reverse important gains of the past 25 years. Azam Ahmed And Paulina Villegas,, "Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador will be Mexico’s next president," 2 July 2018 Ameri and his election coalition, called Fatah, or Conquest, could present the main challenge to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has eschewed the traditional rhetoric of sectarianism and Shiite supremacy for a more inclusive Iraqi nationalism. Washington Post, "Iraqi election seen as a contest between Iran’s challenger and America’s incumbent," 11 May 2018 Although Benda’s critique of intellectuals’ irresponsibility is powerful, his trickle-down account of ethno-nationalism is naive and oddly optimistic. William A. Galston, WSJ, "Macron’s Democratic Vision," 24 Apr. 2018 One of the biggest weapons Beijing wields is popular nationalism, which often works in cahoots with government coercion. Charlie Campbell / Beijing, Time, "It’s Not Just China's Retaliatory Tariffs That Should Worry U.S. Businesses," 2 Apr. 2018 So the welfare state was also entwined with rising nationalism. The Economist, "The welfare state needs updating," 12 July 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).


a private place of worship

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
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!