nihilism

noun
ni·​hil·​ism | \ ˈnī-(h)ə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce nihilism (audio) , ˈnē- How to pronounce nihilism (audio) \

Definition of nihilism

1a : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless Nihilism is a condition in which all ultimate values lose their value.— Ronald H. Nash
b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths
2a : a doctrine or belief that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake independent of any constructive program or possibility
b capitalized : the program of a 19th century Russian party advocating revolutionary reform and using terrorism and assassination

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Other Words from nihilism

nihilist \ ˈnī-​(h)ə-​list How to pronounce nihilist (audio) , ˈnē-​ \ noun or adjective
nihilistic \ ˌnī-​(h)ə-​ˈli-​stik How to pronounce nihilistic (audio) , ˌnē-​ \ adjective

Examples of nihilism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Morgan Rainey’s blighted idealism is as central to Stone’s vision as Rheinhardt’s fluent nihilism is. George Packer, The Atlantic, "A Novelist’s Ambition to Define America," 18 Apr. 2020 For those who prefer their crime-fiction pulp hard-boiled and harder-hitting, with sidelong glances into moral philosophy and nasty nihilism, Zahler's the guy. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "What to watch on HBO while social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic," 4 Apr. 2020 Mao and Maoism, with all its nihilism and violence, found a surprising degree of international support. Julian Gewirtz, Harper's Magazine, "To Rebel Is Justified," 30 Mar. 2020 But mainly this pontificate has failed to stand up to the forces of moral nihilism with vigor and conviction. Nr Editors, National Review, "Letters," 5 Mar. 2020 The evil that must be fought here is nihilism, represented by the Echthroi, a word for enemy that comes from Greek versions of the Bible. Ruth Franklin, The New York Review of Books, "L’Engle’s Cosmic Catechism," 25 Feb. 2020 In the show, Mr. Ed had a puckish sense of humor but abstained from alcohol and no longer had a streak of nihilism. Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, "The “BoJack Horseman” Finale: A Hollywoo Reckoning," 5 Feb. 2020 But the movie, for all its retrograde politics and wham-bam machismo, can also be slick, silly fun — a giddy exercise in freewheeling nihilism, played to the hilt. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, "Guy Ritchie gets his gangster ya-yas out again in The Gentlemen: Review," 23 Jan. 2020 Nobody knew a thing, and nothing was correct—but utter nihilism could be staved off if enough people yelled loudly enough. Nathaniel Friedman, The New Republic, "Moments Without Truth," 21 Oct. 2019

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

1812, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for nihilism

German Nihilismus, from Latin nihil nothing — more at nil

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Time Traveler for nihilism

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The first known use of nihilism was in 1812

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Statistics for nihilism

Last Updated

8 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nihilism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nihilism. Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for nihilism

nihilism

noun
How to pronounce nihilism (audio) How to pronounce nihilism (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of nihilism

formal
: the belief that traditional morals, ideas, beliefs, etc., have no worth or value
: the belief that a society's political and social institutions are so bad that they should be destroyed

nihilism

noun
ni·​hi·​lism | \ ˈnī-(h)ə-ˌliz-əm How to pronounce nihilism (audio) , ˈnē- How to pronounce nihilism (audio) \

Medical Definition of nihilism

2 : skepticism as to the value of a drug or method of treatment

Other Words from nihilism

nihilistic \ ˌnī-​(h)ə-​ˈlis-​tik, ˌnē-​ How to pronounce nihilistic (audio) \ adjective

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More from Merriam-Webster on nihilism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with nihilism

Spanish Central: Translation of nihilism

Nglish: Translation of nihilism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of nihilism for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about nihilism

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