phi·​lan·​thro·​py fə-ˈlan(t)-thrə-pē How to pronounce philanthropy (audio)
plural philanthropies
: goodwill to fellow members of the human race
especially : active effort to promote human welfare
: an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes
: an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes

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The Greek root of philanthropy may be literally translated as "loving people." The English word can refer to general goodwill to one's fellow people, as well as to the active effort to promote the welfare of people, but in modern use it is most often used to refer specifically to the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for others. A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist; the term philanthrope was formerly used with the same meaning, but it is now considered archaic.

Examples of philanthropy in a Sentence

For many years, Microsoft has used corporate philanthropy to bring technology to people who can't get it otherwise, donating more than $3 billion in cash and software to try to bridge the digital divide. Bill Gates, Time, 11 Aug. 2008
Cooper, born in New York City in 1791, was himself an inventor and a hands-on industrialist, whose fortune got its start in the glue business, greatly expanded in the iron industry, eventually included more than half the telegraph lines in the United States, and was significantly invested in philanthropy and the cause of public education. John Updike, New York Review of Books, 10 Aug. 2006
In conditions of anarchy, a crude and violent order, based upon brute force and psychopathic ruthlessness, soon establishes itself, which regards philanthropy not as a friend but as an enemy and a threat. Theodore Dalrymple, National Review, 26 Sept. 2005
The family's philanthropy made it possible to build the public library. among the industrialist's philanthropies was a college scholarship fund for deserving students from the inner city
Recent Examples on the Web Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and non-profits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. Thalia Beaty, Fortune, 21 Nov. 2023 The recurrence of the Black autonomy debate in 2023 is also a result of a certain impatience with political action, a loss of belief in the power of government and traditional philanthropy to deliver transformative justice. WIRED, 16 Nov. 2023 DeLuca’s dedication to philanthropy has roots in her own humble upbringing. Jemima McEvoy, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 Ultra-high net worth families are growing businesses in multiple jurisdictions, buying homes in different regions and helping others via their philanthropy across the globe. Robb Report Studio, Robb Report, 1 Nov. 2023 They are involved in philanthropy and environmentalism Before his death, River was an activist for animal rights and environmental causes, often attending rallies to save marine mammals and preserve the forest. Alex Gurley, Peoplemag, 24 Oct. 2023 DeLuca’s style of philanthropy falls in line with a new cohort of women quietly giving away their fortunes, with none of the pomp and flash that some donors lean into. Jemima McEvoy, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 Earlier this year, Harvard’s president marked an enormous $300-million donation from hedge fund billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin by treating it as an entirely selfless act of philanthropy. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 18 Oct. 2023 The system is free to schools — Sandy Hook Promise funds it with grass-roots fundraising, corporate philanthropy and federal funds through the Stop School Violence Act of 2018. Steven Rich, Washington Post, 10 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Late Latin philanthropia, from Greek philanthrōpia, from philanthrōpos loving people, from phil- + anthrōpos human being

First Known Use

circa 1623, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of philanthropy was circa 1623

Dictionary Entries Near philanthropy

Cite this Entry

“Philanthropy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


phi·​lan·​thro·​py fə-ˈlan(t)-thrə-pē How to pronounce philanthropy (audio)
plural philanthropies
: a spirit of goodwill toward all people especially when expressed in active efforts to help others
: a charitable act or gift
: an organization which distributes or is supported by charitable contributions

More from Merriam-Webster on philanthropy

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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