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

Spending much of its energy on internal crisis-management, the centrist alliance has had little time to actually govern and has seen its ratings plummet in opinion polls to the benefit of right- and left-wing populists. Ruth Bender, WSJ, "Fractious Germany Coalition Strikes Deal Over Intel Chief," 23 Sep. 2018 All but one county on the entire right side of the state went for the Cleveland populist. Jason Williams, Cincinnati.com, "PX column: Why Sherrod Brown could be Democrats' best hope for defeating Donald Trump," 6 July 2018 Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a left-wing populist, won Mexico’s presidential election with 53% of the vote. The Economist, "Politics this week," 5 July 2018 The favorite to replace Nieto is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a populist who would be Mexico’s most leftwing leader in 80 years. Ciara Nugent, Time, "Your Complete Guide to Mexico's 2018 Elections," 29 June 2018 Again and again, McConnell has put money behind centrist candidates running against more conservative options, and to populists and other conservatives, his legislative style is more about dealmaking than winning. Jane Coaston, Vox, "Mitch McConnell just became the longest-serving Republican leader in history, even though his party hates him," 14 June 2018 The populists ditched some of their most incendiary campaign vows, such as calling for a referendum on whether Italy should abandon the euro or leave the European Union. Bard Wilkinson, CNN, "Italian President summons Carlo Cottarelli as election turmoil deepens," 28 May 2018 She and others, including European officials, point to various signs of support from the administration for Europe’s populists and nationalists who target the EU as their worst enemy. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, "Backdrop for Putin summit: A pattern of Trump disrespecting allies?," 2 July 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Former Chilean Socialist President Michelle Bachelet was appointed as High Commissioner for Human Rights last month, and has wasted no time in continuing her predecessor’s attacks on the populist and nationalist wave sweeping through Europe. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Italy looks to cut UN funding after human rights chief scolds migration crackdown," 12 Sep. 2018 Without significant support, these new democracies are exposed to predations by populist and authoritarian leaders. Christopher Claassen, Washington Post, "Support for democracy is declining — but not in the U.S. or other Western democracies," 5 July 2018 The budget clash and economic uncertainty generated by the populist government have already been costly to the Italian economy. Colleen Barry, The Seattle Times, "Italy faces higher borrowing costs, sanctions on budget," 14 Nov. 2018 There’s no doubt that Elizabeth is very much a champion of the populist wing of the Democratic Party. Matt Viser, BostonGlobe.com, "In Warren, Patrick, two ways to take on Trump," 7 July 2018 Economic activity briefly flickered to life in 2014, but soon fell victim to political instability, as the populist left-wing Syriza party tried and failed to overturn Europe’s austerity-heavy bailout program. Marcus Walker, WSJ, "Greece’s Business Prospects Brighten After Lost Decade," 24 Apr. 2018 Even under the watchful eye of a rising populist wing, Democrats remain close to the financial sector. Talmon Joseph Smith, The New Republic, "How Democrats Are Helping Trump Dismantle Dodd-Frank," 1 Mar. 2018 Facebook may be used around the world to stoke nationalism and populist anger, but its ostensible guiding values are remarkably similar to those of the Liberal Democrats. Casey Newton, The Verge, "How platforms are driving users to misinformation about mail bombs," 27 Oct. 2018 For a populist policy agenda that isn’t all about being angry and yelling and screaming and complaining about things. Eric Johnson, Recode, "We have to rewrite antitrust law to deal with tech monopolies, says ‘Positive Populism’ author Steve Hilton," 24 Oct. 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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Last Updated

12 Dec 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

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