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

And there were increasingly violent video games that fed the isolation, growing nihilism and misogyny in those sad, angry, mentally disturbed boys who nonetheless pass their background checks, buy their guns and make the news. John Kass, Twin Cities, "John Kass: Weaponizing the dead of El Paso and Dayton," 9 Aug. 2019 The blankness of that nihilism, its resistance to understanding, is precisely what makes such violence so frightening. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Jihadi John, Domestic Terrorist," 6 Aug. 2019 But seeing better comes too late for nearly everyone in this tragedy, which often feels like the closest to pure nihilism Shakespeare ever got. Kerry Reid, chicagotribune.com, "Review: A sharp ‘King Lear’ at Redtwist Theatre raises issues of aging, greed and power," 9 July 2019 Yet plenty of people have managed to become stars by peddling negativity or hopelessness or bleak nihilism, and history seems to suggest that’s not the healthiest way to go either. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Black Mirror’s Miley Cyrus episode rebels against positivity culture," 5 June 2019 Zendaya embodies a certain quality of listless nihilism with Rue, but her overripe narration represents Levinson’s most tin-eared writing. Darren Franich, EW.com, "HBO's teen shock-soap Euphoria is sweeter than you think: EW review," 14 June 2019 Though its heroine is informed by Levinson’s youth, Euphoria’s nihilism feels as contrived as a Burger King ad. Judy Berman, Time, "In HBO’s Bleak Gen Z Drama, Euphoria Is the Opposite of Happiness," 13 June 2019 Of course, like any form of humor, carnival has weaknesses—particularly, an inborn tendency toward the nihilism of lulz. Julian Lucas, Harper's magazine, "New Books," 10 May 2019 Back in the 80s, The Face focused in on new romanticism, a short-lived subculture that combined elements of punk and glam rock, but without the nihilism and anti-fashion pillars of Punk. Scarlett Newman, Teen Vogue, "The Youth Culture Magazine That Put Naomi Campbell and Missy Elliot on the Cover Is Relaunching," 1 Apr. 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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Statistics for nihilism

Last Updated

15 Aug 2019

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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

nihilism

noun

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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