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 Their gunmetal sorrow was reflective of the times: the general creep of Patriot Act paranoia plus Forever War nihilism. Leah Greenblatt,, 15 June 2022 But there is also just an overwhelming sense of nihilism. Elle Reeve, CNN, 20 May 2022 Epistemic humility, though, is distinct from epistemic nihilism. Idrees Kahloon, The New Yorker, 16 May 2022 Yet the despotism and nihilism of Marxism, Stalin’s cause, is ultimately indistinguishable from the power outlook at the heart of Putinism. Bartle Bull, WSJ, 4 May 2022 The multiverse is a fascinating idea to daydream about — and, along with simulation theory, may be on track to become something like an agnostic, nihilism-friendly new religion. John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 May 2022 Daggett argues that as the old order—the family where dad ruled uncontested, fossil fuels, perhaps even American dominance—slips out of reach, some will fight it with a violent nihilism. Liza Featherstone, The New Republic, 11 Apr. 2022 She’s a practicing Catholic, but with some nihilism thrown in. Brock Colyar, Vulture, 24 Nov. 2021 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 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

22 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Nihilism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Jun. 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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