re·​duc·​tion·​ism ri-ˈdək-shə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce reductionism (audio)
: explanation of complex life-science processes and phenomena in terms of the laws of physics and chemistry
also : a theory or doctrine that complete reductionism is possible
: a procedure or theory that reduces complex data and phenomena to simple terms
reductionist noun or adjective
reductionistic adjective

Examples of reductionism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Faux also employs this type of reductionism while breezily dismissing the entirety of crypto as a massive scam. Byjeff John Roberts, Fortune Crypto, 12 Sep. 2023 Rosenberg holds out for reductionism, and seems to me to do a pretty good job at it. Sean Carroll, Discover Magazine, 3 Nov. 2010 And, at the very least, doubt is the antidote to dogma and fanaticism and reductionism. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, 23 Mar. 2023 The reductionism is hopeless. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, 2 June 2021 My banquet table was full of particle physicists and cosmologists -- pretty much the most sympathetic audience for reductionism one can possibly imagine. Sean Carroll, Discover Magazine, 21 Apr. 2011 Also, few people have strong feelings about non-gaussianities or neutrinos, but many people have strong feelings about reductionism. Sean Carroll, Discover Magazine, 22 Apr. 2011 To some extent this is building a case for pessimism about the power of reductionism in smoking out causal chains. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 7 Oct. 2012 The author covers the debates that raged in the 18th and 19th centuries between mechanists, who understood nature as a machine reducible to its discrete parts (reductionism), and vitalists who argued that this sum did not suffice to explain life. Siri Hustvedt, Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'reductionism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1925, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of reductionism was in 1925

Dictionary Entries Near reductionism

Cite this Entry

“Reductionism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Medical Definition


re·​duc·​tion·​ism ri-ˈdək-shə-ˌniz-əm How to pronounce reductionism (audio)
: the attempt to explain all biological processes by the same explanations (as by physical laws) that chemists and physicists use to interpret inanimate matter
also : the theory that complete reductionism is possible
: a procedure or theory that reduces complex data or phenomena to simple terms
reductionist adjective
or reductionistic

More from Merriam-Webster on reductionism

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