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 Of the two, Milioti gets the fuller character arc to play with, as Emma tries her very best to push down her weaknesses in favor of fully embracing the apathy of true nihilism. Caroline Framke, Variety, 28 July 2022 So do all of us still here on this side of the line dividing greed and nihilism. Mike Finger, San Antonio Express-News, 23 July 2022 As far as exercises in nihilism go, Texas deserves some points for creativity. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 7 Aug. 2021 Also, the mere fact of passing an actual law would help the party of government and hurt the party of nihilism. Michael Tomasky, The New Republic, 20 June 2022 But there’s no room for nihilism in Bowers’ worldview. Catherine Womack, Los Angeles Times, 8 July 2022 But the heart of that statement is what makes his work, for all its nihilism, continually galvanizing in itself and in its acolytes. Jessica Ferri, Los Angeles Times, 27 June 2022 But Ewing and Grady deliver that bad news with a tonal emphasis on obstinate resistance, and a briskness that lets the darkening view register without succumbing to hand-wringing or nihilism. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 15 June 2022 Their gunmetal sorrow was reflective of the times: the general creep of Patriot Act paranoia plus Forever War nihilism. Leah Greenblatt,, 15 June 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

9 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Nihilism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 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

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Nglish: Translation of nihilism for Spanish Speakers

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