sadism

noun

sa·​dism ˈsā-ˌdi-zəm How to pronounce sadism (audio)
ˈsa-
1
: the derivation of sexual gratification from the infliction of physical pain or humiliation on another person compare masochism, sadomasochism
2
a
: delight in cruelty
b
: extreme cruelty

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What is the Difference Between the Words masochism & sadism?

Masochism and sadism are both about the enjoyment of pain. Masochism refers to the enjoyment of experiencing pain while sadism refers to the enjoyment of inflicting pain on someone else.

Interestingly, both masochism and sadism are eponymous words. English has thousands of such words, taken from the names of people both real and fictional. Masochism comes from the name of the 19th century German novelist, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. It is unusual in that it began to be used during the lifetime of the man from whom it originated (Sacher-Masoch died in 1895, and masochism had been in printed use since 1892). Sadism comes from the name of the French writer, the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814).

The two words are not only often encountered in connection with one another, they have been combined into a single word, sadomasochism.

Examples of sadism in a Sentence

a troubled youth with a streak of sadism in him
Recent Examples on the Web The whole thing should sting your brain with the cumulative sadism of a middle school talent show, a GOP campaign event and a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Chris Richards, Washington Post, 30 Mar. 2024 Now, Acworth is working with engineers to train an image-generation model on pictures of BDSM, an acronym for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. Tatum Hunter, Washington Post, 25 Feb. 2024 Villeneuve’s mix of bald males and women covered in burkas during this midpoint sequence of arena sadism is startling yet inexpressive. Armond White, National Review, 1 Mar. 2024 The improvements that were ordered seem to have had minimal effect—possibly due to the on-island brigade’s sadism, or possibly because of the logistical problem of shipping food through the Channel—but conditions on Alderney do not seem to have been universally murderous (a given, for Weigold). Rebecca Panovka, Harper's Magazine, 9 Feb. 2024 War of the Roses (1989) An extra-dark comedy that veers toward sadism, the film is saved by the chemistry and star power of Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas (fresh off their Romancing the Stone series) with an assist from an excellent Danny DeVito. Debby Wolfinsohn, EW.com, 4 Feb. 2024 Operated by Catholic priests and nuns, who often were unwaveringly demanding to the point of fanatical sadism, the most infamous of these schools were little better than prison camps. Joe Leydon, Variety, 31 Jan. 2024 In another study published last year, Evita March, senior lecturer in psychology at Federation University in Australia, found that people with the strong personality traits of sadism, psychopathy, and narcissism were more likely to catfish. Sen Nguyen, CNN, 29 Jan. 2024 This combination of elitism and sadism is distinct to Fincher, as is his puke-and-urine color scheme. Armond White, National Review, 17 Nov. 2023

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

Word History

Etymology

International Scientific Vocabulary, from Marquis de Sade

First Known Use

1818, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sadism was in 1818

Dictionary Entries Near sadism

Cite this Entry

“Sadism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sadism. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

sadism

noun
sa·​dism ˈsā-ˌdiz-əm How to pronounce sadism (audio)
ˈsad-ˌiz-
1
: abnormal behavior in which sexual pleasure is obtained by hurting another
2
a
: pleasure taken in cruelty
b
: very great cruelty
sadistic
sə-ˈdis-tik How to pronounce sadism (audio)
 also  sā-
adjective

Medical Definition

sadism

noun
: a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others (as on a love object) compare algolagnia, masochism
sadistic
sə-ˈdis-tik also sā- or sa-
adjective
sadistically adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on sadism

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