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

Other Words from nihilism

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

Examples of nihilism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web That doesn’t stop Ozark from repeatedly making the same cynical observations — cynical to the degree of empty nihilism by the end. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Apr. 2022 Since that record’s release, Dando has remained spacey and carefree despite the nihilism that plagued his Generation X cohort. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, 7 Mar. 2022 The nihilism of the punk scene and the pressures of fame were too much for the gifted, groundbreaking frontwoman, the first person of color to front a punk band. Evelyn Mcdonnell, Los Angeles Times, 1 Feb. 2022 Jobu Tupaki’s physical form resembles Joy in other universes, including one in which the evil being reveals that nihilism propels her destructive plans. Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2022 Instead of dark nihilism and rejection, the Linda Lindas turn their adolescent doubts and teenage neuroses into pop epiphanies. Roy Trakin, Variety, 8 Apr. 2022 This vision reflects late-capitalist desperation and nihilism, a scramble to earn, however possible, at whomever’s expense, in an age of austerity and oligarchy. New York Times, 14 Mar. 2022 Adams added that a combination of nihilism and shortening attention spans is also a factor why this generation, like those before it, sometimes skips the verification process. Kalhan Rosenblatt, NBC News, 11 Mar. 2022 Jagger plays this as nihilism lite, but Odetta has no truck with detachment, and sings the Stones song like a mournful god giving up on a world that won’t listen. Sasha Frere-jones, The New Yorker, 24 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of nihilism was in 1812

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Last Updated

5 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Nihilism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for nihilism


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 nihilism (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on nihilism

Nglish: Translation of nihilism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of nihilism for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about nihilism


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