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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Online, political memes flew back and forth like spitballs, and even some of the most innocent ones (like that fish tube) took on a sense of ecstatic nihilism. Emma Grey Ellis, Wired, "The 8 Most Important Memes of 2019," 21 Dec. 2019 Snack-and-beverage services have been replaced by conversations about nihilism. Jiji Lee, The New Yorker, "New Budget Airlines," 23 Aug. 2019 Eventually, in Beran’s aggrandizing telling, 4chan’s crescendo of furious nihilism delivers President Trump to America. Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "WIRED Book of the Month: It Came From Something Awful," 31 July 2019 Julia Shapiro sings, making nihilism feel like a warm blanket. Washington Post, "16 things to do in the D.C. area this weekend," 14 Nov. 2019 That’s long been Moore’s specialty: His Watchmen chronicled the seedy truths and vicious nihilism that often underlie superheroism, upending the cheerful idealism of old-fashioned comic books. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Brave New World of HBO’s Watchmen," 22 Oct. 2019 Needless to say, this is far worse than the political nihilism Sams comes close to voicing in his German counterpart’s office. Graham Hillard, National Review, "Ian McEwan Doesn’t Get Brexit," 24 Oct. 2019 Thunberg has seen climate nihilism up close; the problem is too enormous to tackle, the adults tell her. Mattie Kahn, Glamour, "The World According to Greta," 22 Oct. 2019 Between these transgressive acts and his overall inclination toward nihilism and anarchy, the Joker has become a potent symbol on the internet for many people who feel isolated from or angry at society. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "The Joker Has Always Been a Controversial Character. This Time, It’s Different," 8 Oct. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about nihilism

Time Traveler for nihilism

Time Traveler

The first known use of nihilism was in 1812

See more words from the same year

Statistics for nihilism

Last Updated

3 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nihilism.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nihilistic. Accessed 19 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for nihilism

nihilism

noun
How to pronounce nihilism (audio) How to pronounce nihilism (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on nihilism

What made you want to look up nihilism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to insert between existing elements

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!