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

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 There were indications that Bosio, strong-willed in his pitching philosophy, was often at odds with some of the team’s analytics department. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Tigers fire pitching coach Bosio without manager Gardenhire's input," 27 June 2018 There’s a lot of froyo, philosophy, and Ted Danson, who earned an Emmy nomination this season for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Emily Dreyfuss, WIRED, "9 Emmy-Nominated Shows You Can Binge to Escape Reality," 13 July 2018 In the long run, that attitude has produced too many graduates in subjects such as PPE (politics, philosophy and economics) and not enough engineers. The Economist, "A welcome upgrade to apprenticeships," 12 July 2018 DeWitt is an inventive stylist, a ruthlessly curious intellectual, and a sparkling wit; her stories, accordingly, tend to deal in language, philosophy, and humor before touching plot and character. Brittany Allen, Longreads, "Getting Tricked by Helen DeWitt," 9 July 2018 Not long after commencing his university studies, Marx switched from law to philosophy, a regrettable decision both for the world and for his finances. Andrew Stuttaford, WSJ, "‘Marx and Marxism’ and ‘A World to Win’ Review: Better Dead Than Read," 5 July 2018 Among these activities are lessons in astronomy, philosophy, art, dance, physiology, aesthetics. Tom Keogh, The Seattle Times, "Seattle Piano Institute draws students from around the world for piano and life lessons," 3 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

5 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for philosophy

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

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More Definitions for philosophy



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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