rel·a·tiv·ism | \ˈre-lə-ti-ˌvi-zəm \

Definition of relativism 

1a : a theory that knowledge is relative to the limited nature of the mind and the conditions of knowing

b : a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from relativism

relativist \ˈre-lə-tə-vist \ noun

Examples of relativism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Long shrouded in a gray area of cultural relativism, eating dogs has become a taboo in the country as younger generations gravitate closer to the Western belief that a pooch is man’s best friend, rather than a tasty delicacy, according to AFP. Fox News, "South Korean court outlaws killing dogs for their meat," 21 June 2018 Today, the lens represents a struggle between objectivity and relativism. Allain Daigle, The Atlantic, "How the 50-mm Lens Became ‘Normal’," 13 May 2018 There is space within the Catholic tradition for a kind of situational ethics that doesn’t automatically collapse into moral relativism. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "The conservative case against Pope Francis — and why it matters," 5 Apr. 2018 Still, by challenging moral relativism more broadly, Douthat nonetheless raises an important point. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "The conservative case against Pope Francis — and why it matters," 5 Apr. 2018 Some might blame the truth-disparaging theories that have long been incubating in certain corners of the academy, which go by the names of relativism and postmodernism. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, WSJ, "Truth Isn’t the Problem—We Are," 15 Mar. 2018 Walter Kempowski, who was born in 1929 and died in 2007, was a lifelong investigator of this kind of private relativism. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, "Walter Kempowski’s Epic Novel of Germany in Collapse," 21 Mar. 2016 Such relativism often breeds nihilism, something of which Ball has been accused. Ellie Robins,, "Jesse Ball's 'Census' is an understated tale of a father and son taking stock of America," 9 Mar. 2018 The filial correction alleged that Pope Francis committed seven heresies regarding his teachings on divorce and remarriage and moral relativism. Tyler Arnold, National Review, "Pope Francis’s Controversial Step on Communion for the Divorced and Remarried," 12 Dec. 2017

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

1865, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about relativism

Share relativism

Statistics for relativism

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for relativism

The first known use of relativism was in 1865

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for relativism



English Language Learners Definition of relativism

: the belief that different things are true, right, etc., for different people or at different times

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on relativism

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


evasion of direct action or statement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!