ni·​hil·​ism | \ˈnī-(h)ə-ˌli-zəm, ˈnē- \

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 , ˈnē-​ \ noun or adjective
nihilistic \ ˌnī-​(h)ə-​ˈli-​stik , ˌnē-​ \ adjective

Examples of nihilism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

For example, a pop culture that glorifies violence like video games; social networks that expose status inequality; a generation drenched in medications, bullying and nihilism. Greg Gutfeld, Fox News, "Gutfeld on media coverage of school shootings," 22 May 2018 The narration seems deliberately crude and jerky, as if the nihilism of the tale had infected its telling, and there's an unfortunate late turn into science fiction spoofiness. Patrick Friel, Chicago Reader, "Film / Music / Old Movies to Watch Now / On Video / Small Screen Urgh! A Music War and other punk and postpunk new wave cinema," 10 July 2018 My favorite Lebanese writers are: Fouad Kanaan, who introduced nihilism and absurdity into Lebanese literature in the late 1940s; Alawiya Sobh, Rashid al-Daif, Hoda Barakat, Layla Baalbaki, Balqis al-Humani. New York Times, "Hanan al-Shaykh: By the Book," 5 July 2018 If all the yoga classes and paleo diets in the world can't save us, then what prevents us from descending into total nihilism? Rachel Newcomb,, "Americans have resolved to live forever or die in the attempt," 8 May 2018 Clancy’s music bucks the trend of so much of today’s chart-topping mainstream rap/pop, which seems to revel in nihilism and is hellbent on making depression appear chic. Ken Capobianco,, "Recovery has given Justin Clancy a purpose his music had been missing," 11 July 2018 That approaches nihilism, a belief that nothing is real, nothing matters, and life is meaningless. Dan Rodricks,, "Rodricks: 10 ways to be a great American citizen for the Fourth of July," 3 July 2018 Following Woponese, Wopo released Trapnese with fellow rapper Hardo, a nine track album that features 21 Savage -- a rapper whose dead-eyed nihilism serves as a nice complement to Wopo’s ecstatic, bubbly proclamations of love and war. Will Schube, Billboard, "Jimmy Wopo Would've Been Next Up in Pittsburgh's Burgeoning Rap Scene," 20 June 2018 Fans of Springsteen who can handle some 21st century American grit, nihilism and rootlessness might find a lot to like in Barry’s songs. John Adamian,, "From Sam Hunt And Reba To U2 And King X: A Week Of Big-Name Concerts," 23 June 2018

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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Statistics for nihilism

Last Updated

26 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for nihilism

The first known use of nihilism was in 1812

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More Definitions for nihilism



English Language Learners Definition of nihilism

: 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


ni·​hi·​lism | \ˈnī-(h)ə-ˌliz-əm, ˈnē- \

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-​ \ adjective

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playful or foolish behavior

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