phi·​los·​o·​phy | \fə-ˈlä-s(ə-)fē \
plural philosophies

Definition of philosophy 

1a(1) : all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts

(2) : the sciences and liberal arts exclusive of medicine, law, and theology a doctor of philosophy

(3) : the 4-year college course of a major seminary

b(1) archaic : physical science

(2) : ethics

c : a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology

2a : pursuit of wisdom

b : a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means

c : an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs

3a : a system of philosophical concepts

b : a theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought the philosophy of war

4a : the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group

b : calmness of temper and judgment befitting a philosopher

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Synonyms for philosophy


credo, creed, doctrine, dogma, gospel, ideology (also idealogy), testament

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Examples of philosophy in a Sentence

There's plenty of blame to go around: poor regulation, eight years of a failed Republican economic philosophy, Wall Street-friendly Democrats who helped stymie reform, misguided bipartisan efforts to promote home ownership, Wall Street greed, corrupt CEOs, a botched rescue effort, painfully fallible central bankers. — Daniel Gross, Newsweek, 9 Mar. 2009 Broadly speaking, philosophy has three concerns: how the world hangs together, how our beliefs can be justified, and how to live. — Jim Holt, New York Times Book Review, 15 Feb. 2009 Almost none of the kids were older than twenty-five, as if there were a sell-by date on radical social philosophy, a legal age limit after which one must surrender lofty ideals and shave off all dreadlocks. — Matthew Power, Harper's, March 2008 In their mission statement, the editors bragged of their firm commitment to equality and social justice, but their philosophy didn't prevent them from summoning Lindsey to perform all their menial tasks. — Kim Wong Keltner, The Dim Sum of All Things, 2004 Her degree is in philosophy and religion. The group eventually split over conflicting political philosophies. Her main cooking philosophy is to use only fresh ingredients.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The APIs are robust, the tools are good (and getting better), the design philosophy is coherent, and the platform as a whole has a direction. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "From Win32 to Cocoa: A Windows user’s would-be conversion to Mac OS X, part III," 28 May 2018 Peterson’s philosophy — enumerated in TED talks, YouTube videos for his 1.2 million subscribers, and self-help books (his latest venture, 12 Rules for Life, topped several best-seller charts) — is deceptively simple. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "The religious hunger that drives Jordan Peterson’s fandom," 1 June 2018 The new Honor 10 exhibits the same design philosophy as the P20 Pro: ugly notch on the front, stunning blue-purple iridescence on the back. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "The Honor 10 is exactly the budget Huawei P20 Pro we were expecting," 15 May 2018 In Stevens's philosophy, the most commonplace object holds adequate wonder to create a new, poeticized world order. Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader, "Reality Is an Activity imagines a new, poeticized world order," 3 May 2018 The two have been friends for years, and Gentry was on Kerr’s staff when the 2014-15 Warriors triggered a major shift in NBA philosophy. Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, "Everything Warriors fans need to know about the surging Pelicans," 26 Apr. 2018 The most significant different, according to Laing, is the underlying philosophy. Laurel Andrews, Anchorage Daily News, "Should Alaska’s naturopaths be allowed to prescribe medicine?," 21 Apr. 2018 Creating financial goals can be telling about your personal life philosophies. W. David Kern,, "How and why new couples should talk about finances," 11 July 2018 Spooner’s donned silky gowns in the past, but this translucent Palomo number proves that his nude philosophy can extend far beyond button-down shirts. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Casey Spooner’s Love of Sheer Garments Now Includes a Little White Dress," 9 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'philosophy.' 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 philosophy

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for philosophy

Middle English philosophie, from Anglo-French, from Latin philosophia, from Greek, from philosophos philosopher

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Last Updated

2 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for philosophy

The first known use of philosophy was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of philosophy

: the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.

: a particular set of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.

: a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live


phi·​los·​o·​phy | \fə-ˈlä-sə-fē \
plural philosophies

Kids Definition of philosophy

1 : the study of the basic ideas about knowledge, right and wrong, reasoning, and the value of things

2 : a specific set of ideas of a person or a group Greek philosophy

3 : a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live Live and let live—that's my philosophy.

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Comments on philosophy

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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