nihilism

noun

ni·​hil·​ism ˈnī-(h)ə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce nihilism (audio) ˈnē- How to pronounce nihilism (audio)
1
a
: 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
2
a
: 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
nihilist noun or adjective
nihilistic adjective

Examples of nihilism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This might sound like a fatalistic view of the world, and for later thinkers the idea that the universe is nothing but a mechanism in motion, constantly changing but never going anywhere, was a recipe for nihilism and despair. Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker, 5 Feb. 2024 Civics is an antidote to the cynicism that reduces everything to power and to the nihilism that seeks only to subvert and tear down. Justin Dyer, National Review, 6 Jan. 2024 At a moment when nihilism might be tempting, an eschatological view imbued each loss with a sense of meaning. Anand Gopal, The New Yorker, 10 Dec. 2023 The music for such an exercise should be the corrosive, grind-house nihilism of Nine Inch Nails, headed by Fincher’s favorite composer, Trent Reznor. Armond White, National Review, 17 Nov. 2023 Likewise, advocating for Palestinians caught in the crossfire of a conflict between an aspiration for a Jewish homeland and the reality of Palestinian exile has nothing to do with nihilism. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, 29 Oct. 2023 The other vision is the vision that Hamas has, death, destruction, nihilism, darkness. CBS News, 22 Oct. 2023 One thing was absolutely clear — and a surprise, in a way — that there isn’t a nihilism [with le Carré]. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 19 Oct. 2023 Cumbersome or not, the discharge petition is a weapon for sensible governance in the face of legislative nihilism. Norman J. Ornstein, The New Republic, 11 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nihilism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

German Nihilismus, from Latin nihil nothing — more at nil

First Known Use

1812, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of nihilism was in 1812

Dictionary Entries Near nihilism

Cite this Entry

“Nihilism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nihilism. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Medical Definition

nihilism

noun
ni·​hi·​lism ˈnī-(h)ə-ˌliz-əm How to pronounce nihilism (audio) ˈnē- How to pronounce nihilism (audio)
1
2
: skepticism as to the value of a drug or method of treatment
nihilistic adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on nihilism

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