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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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 The landslide winner of Mexico’s presidential election pledged Monday to pursue cordial relations with a fellow populist, U.S. President Donald Trump, at a time when their two nations are at sharp odds over trade and immigration. David Agren, USA TODAY, "Mexico's new populist president pledges to work cordially with President Donald Trump," 2 July 2018 This March brings another nasty first: power to the populists of the left-wing 5 Star Movement and the far-right League. Josef Joffe, WSJ, "Italy’s Populist Flirtation Won’t Last," 3 June 2018 While Merkel was referring to populists in Germany, the underlying message may very well also have been directed against Trump, according to a memoir being published next week. Rick Noack, Washington Post, "After Obama, an emotional Merkel vowed to defend the liberal world order against Trump, book claims," 31 May 2018 Often the rise of populists reflects obvious policy failures and public frustrations that EU and national elites can ill afford to ignore. Angelos Chryssogelos, Time, "The Populism Debate Ignores the Real Lessons of Italy's Political Crisis," 31 May 2018 What Trump excelled in was expressing pure racial-cultural resentment, which makes him a certain breed of populist, but not an economic one. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "The Myth of Trump’s Populist Revolt," 18 May 2018 Populist validation | Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party scored a crushing election victory yesterday in a boost to populists who are challenging the European Union’s democratic values. Andrew J Barden, Bloomberg.com, "The Mystery Strike on Syria No One Will Claim," 9 Apr. 2018 Anger propelled López Obrador, or AMLO, a populist, and his challengers never pulled out of the 20s, Escareño noted. Elaine Ayala, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonian’s front seat at Mexico’s historic presidential election," 8 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Since the demise of the far-right British National Party five-odd years ago, and the implosion of the populist UK Independence Party after the Brexit referendum, voters to the right of the Tories have had no political home. The Economist, "Donald Trump lays into Britain’s Brexit plan," 13 July 2018 Those include growing public disaffection with incumbent politicians and the resultant rise of nationalistic populist parties who want a looser EU. Nektaria Stamouli, WSJ, "Macedonia’s Deal With Greece Over Name Is Just a First Step Toward EU," 3 July 2018 Tensions over migration have inflamed political debate across Europe, with governments struggling to agree in recent years on how to handle newcomers and populist parties taking a share of power in some countries. Geir Moulson, Fox News, "Germany's Merkel faces race against time in migrant standoff," 28 June 2018 Although migrant numbers are down, the politics around the issue have propelled populist parties to success across Europe, including in Italy and in Germany, where the Alternative for Germany is the official opposition party. Steven Erlanger, New York Times, "E.U. Leader Warns of ‘Worst-Case Scenarios,’ Citing Trump," 27 June 2018 Italy’s populist Lega party entered government after extending its traditional northern support deep into the south with anti-immigrant rhetoric. Alan Crawford, Bloomberg.com, "As Merkel’s Power Drains, the Threat to Europe Grows," 27 June 2018 Buzdum sees a populist appeal to those who think that blocking imports protects jobs — even if the American economy already is so thoroughly intertwined with the rest of the world that trade barriers tend to have the opposite effect. John Schmid, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Trump's global trade war expected to inflict economic causalities in Wisconsin and across nation," 10 July 2018 That July Fourth feels like a different lifetime now, and not only because my English friends are no longer immune from lamenting the far-right, pseudo-populist insurgence that buoyed Donald Trump into the presidency. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Celebrating America When You’re Feeling Less Than Patriotic," 4 July 2018 But López Obrador is not the typical Latin American populist, nor does his branding as a leftist convey the complexity of his ethos. Azam Ahmed And Paulina Villegas, BostonGlobe.com, "Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador will be Mexico’s next president," 2 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about populist

Statistics for populist

Last Updated

5 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for populist

The first known use of populist was in 1891

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for populist



English Language Learners Definition of populist

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


alleviating pain or harshness

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!