pop·​u·​list | \ˈpä-pyə-list \

Definition of populist 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people especially, often capitalized : a member of a U.S. political party formed in 1891 primarily to represent agrarian interests and to advocate the free coinage of silver and government control of monopolies

2 : a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people



Definition of populist (Entry 2 of 2)

1 often capitalized : of, relating to, or characterized by populism

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Other Words from populist


populism \ ˈpä-​pyə-​ˌli-​zəm \ noun
populistic \ ˌpä-​pyə-​ˈli-​stik \ adjective

Examples of populist in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

This compelling story of the rise and fall of a charismatic populist and the reporter who covers him, provides a timely insight into both the political process and how the flaws in human nature can be exploited. Steve Israel, chicagotribune.com, "What's the greatest book about politics? Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and others weigh in.," 12 July 2018 First, in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 economic crash, Republicans won the messaging game, branding Democrats as the party of technocratic elitism and themselves as the economic populists. Gabriel Debenedetti, Daily Intelligencer, "Where Is Barack Obama?," 24 June 2018 For days now, League leader Matteo Salvini has been trying to hash out a deal with a rival populist, Luigi Di Maio, whose 5-Star Movement emerged as Parliament’s largest party. Frances D'emilio, The Seattle Times, "Court rules Italy’s Berlusconi can run for office again," 12 May 2018 Until the refugee crisis, his image was only an authoritarian populist. NBC News, "Hungary's Viktor Orban set to extend rule after embracing far-right," 8 Apr. 2018 The rise of xenophobic populists invites comparisons to the 1930s. Daniel Treisman, Washington Post, "Is democracy really in danger? The picture is not as dire as you think.," 19 June 2018 There is this fight between the globalists and the populists or nationalists or the tribalism. Recode Staff, Recode, "Full transcript: Obama administration Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on Recode Decode," 21 June 2018 But for Trump to be an economic populist, his policies should reflect some demonstrable interest in improving the lives of working people. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "The Myth of Trump’s Populist Revolt," 18 May 2018 Containment is a strategy with uncertain outcomes, except for one: Selectively endorsing the policies of right-wing populists lends these policies respectability in the eyes of centrist voters. chicagotribune.com, "Europe forgot what 'conservative' means," 22 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Unions have remained stalwart backers of Democratic politicians, even as many of their white, working-class members gravitated in the last election to the populist message of President Donald Trump. Kris Maher, WSJ, "Public-Sector Unions Brace for Fallout From Supreme Court Decision on Fees," 27 June 2018 The burden will be on Cordray to show that his populist message and soft-spoken persona can resonate in a state where Republicans have held the governorship for all but four years since the early 1990s. Author: Jonathan Martin, Alexander Burns, Anchorage Daily News, "Party mavericks rebuffed at the polls in primary elections," 9 May 2018 This is what elevates the Roy Moores, the Blankenships, the Jeremy Corbyns in the U.K., is this sort of ability to engage in a populist message. NBC News, "Meet the Press -May 6, 2018," 6 May 2018 For Jess Brown, the key for the Democrats is to communicate a populist message that resonates regarding the economy, while maintaining a conservative-leaning stance on most social issues. John Sharp, AL.com, "'Definitely an uphill battle': Can a Democrat win the Alabama governor's race?," 24 Apr. 2018 That dichotomy helps explains why, in a state Trump won by 19 percentage points on an economic populist message, public officials are so divided over his policy. Maureen Groppe, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana stands to gain — and lose — more than most states from steel tariffs," 8 Mar. 2018 The frontrunner in Mexico’s July 1 presidential election is the leftist-populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Grace Donnelly, Fortune, "As Donald Trump Flirts With Trade Wars, These Are the Deals to Watch," 28 Feb. 2018 Italy has a new populist coalition that is pro-Putin. The Economist, "The Western alliance is in trouble," 5 July 2018 But Trump's preference for populist candidates like Corey Stewart, the Confederate-statue-supporting Republican who won the GOP nomination for Senate in Virginia on Tuesday, increasingly seems to be remaking the GOP, if not Congress, in his image. Lisa Mascaro And Meg Kinnard, chicagotribune.com, "'Trump enough?': Primary election lesson for Republicans: Don't cross the president," 13 June 2018

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


1891, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1892, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for populist


Latin populus the people

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Statistics for populist

Last Updated

31 Oct 2018

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The first known use of populist was in 1891

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More Definitions for populist



English Language Learners Definition of populist

: of or relating to a political party that claims to represent ordinary people

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More from Merriam-Webster on populist

Spanish Central: Translation of populist

Nglish: Translation of populist for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of populist for Arabic Speakers

Comments on populist

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


to express warning or disapproval

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