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

In the rise of Mexico’s next president, a populist who channeled a nation’s anger at mainstream politicians, some here saw a glimmer of another North American firebrand. Kevin Sieff, Washington Post, "Mexico’s new president is a populist who railed against the ruling class. But he’s no Trump.," 1 July 2018 Phony populists try to pit one group against another to get ahead. WSJ, "Who Read What in 2018: Politics and Policy," 10 Dec. 2018 The Trump administration, by contrast, has consistently tried to run plays out of the authoritarian populist playbook — casting criticism and opposition as unpatriotic betrayals of the will of the people — without ever actually achieving popularity. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "The lesson of the midterms: resistance works," 7 Nov. 2018 Idaho is conservative, but as Vox noted at the time of Jordan’s victory, the state’s demographics are changing, and Jordan represents a new, left-leaning populist wave within the Democratic Party that could play well with voters. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "Will New Mexico give America its first Native American congresswoman?," 6 June 2018 Kurz's Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) this year formed a governing coalition with the right-wing populist Freedom Party (FPÖ). David Martin, USA TODAY, "U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell wants to 'empower' Europe's right," 4 June 2018 Though populists rail against austerity, years of budgetary restraint give them a bit of room to introduce their policies. The Economist, "Italy needs to be handled with care," 31 May 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

And William Galston of the Brookings Institution argues that rising inequality has made a populist anti-democratic backlash more likely. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "We aren’t alarmed enough about Jeff Sessions’s firing," 8 Nov. 2018 Still, many challenges lie ahead for Lopez Obrador, whose populist campaign surged thanks to voter anger at Mexico’s rising violence and endemic corruption. Kate Linthicum, latimes.com, "Five challenges that lie ahead for Mexico's next president," 2 July 2018 That has led to a populist backlash, which could result in higher taxes on companies or restrictions on trade. The Economist, "Wall Street looks overvalued," 22 Mar. 2018 Then the President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Bannon was widely credited as the mastermind behind the populist right-wing campaign that won Trump the White House. Jeet Heer, New Republic, "Steve Bannon’s Fatal Flaw," 11 Jan. 2018 In Germany, Austria and Italy — countries that have received large shares of migrants — populist, anti-migrant parties have made strong electoral gains since 2015. Fox News, "Sweden's most significant election in years, at a glance," 6 Sep. 2018 For the Duquistas, a victory for their opponents would take the country down the path of populist, chaotic Venezuela, while the Petristas fomented the fear of an authoritarian Duque, a wrecker of the peace accords. Time, "The Most Surprising Aspect of Colombia's Election Wasn't Who Won," 20 June 2018 The top vote-getters in the March election, the populist Five Star Movement and the right-wing League, are euroskeptics. The Christian Science Monitor, "For Italy, all roads lead to EU values," 30 May 2018 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

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

10 Jan 2019

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).


to gather or build up little by little

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Syn City

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!