sa·​dism | \ ˈsā-ˌdi-zəm How to pronounce sadism (audio) , ˈsa-\

Definition of sadism

1 : the derivation of sexual gratification from the infliction of physical pain or humiliation on another person — compare masochism, sadomasochism
2a : delight in cruelty
b : excessive 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

According to Buzzfeed, the two bonded over BDSM, which stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism. Blake Bakkila, Good Housekeeping, "Who Is Nicholas Godejohn? Inside Gypsy Rose Blanchard's Relationship With Her Mother's Killer," 3 Apr. 2019 And then there is the life and work of the studio in Montparnasse where Giacometti made his sitters pose for days at a time: a terrain of sadism, despair, but also total commitment. Jason Farago, New York Times, "Giacometti: Beguiled by Thin Men and Women," 6 June 2018 Those who practice bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism (B.D.S.M.) have rules for protecting boundaries, safety and consent. New York Times, "The Boundary Between Abuse and B.D.S.M.," 23 May 2018 And as bad as von Trier's playful sadism may be, his defensive pedantry may be even worse. Justin Chang,, "Lars von Trier’s ‘The House That Jack Built’ and Spike Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’ make for a night of provocation in Cannes," 15 May 2018 The Purge: Anarchy (2014) took viewers out into city to get a better gauge of the widespread sadism sweeping the nation., "Why People Either Really Love Or Hate The Purge Movies," 3 July 2018 Even amid a conflict marked by as much sadism and brutality as Liberia’s first civil war, Charles Taylor’s October 1992 bid to seize that West African nation’s capital, Monrovia, stands out as one of its bloodiest chapters. Jeremy Roebuck,, "Another Liberian in Delco stands trial for alleged role in brutal civil war," 11 June 2018 Former inmates from the largest Air Force Intelligence branch in Damascus have described interrogations replete with sadism. Louisa Loveluck, Washington Post, "Germany seeks arrest of leading Syrian general on war crimes charges," 8 June 2018 Research shows that internet trolls tend to display personality traits like sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. German Lopez, Vox, "David Hogg’s family was swatted. That’s extremely dangerous.," 5 June 2018

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

1818, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sadism

International Scientific Vocabulary, from Marquis de Sade

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Statistics for sadism

Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for sadism

The first known use of sadism was in 1818

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More Definitions for sadism



English Language Learners Definition of sadism

: enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain especially : sexual enjoyment from hurting or punishing someone


sa·​dism | \ ˈsā-ˌdiz-əm How to pronounce sadism (audio) , ˈsad-ˌiz- How to pronounce sadism (audio) \

Medical Definition of sadism

: 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

Other Words from sadism

sadistic \ sə-​ˈdis-​tik also sā-​ or sa-​ \ adjective
sadistically \ -​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce sadistically (audio) \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on sadism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sadism

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sadism

Spanish Central: Translation of sadism

Nglish: Translation of sadism for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about sadism

Comments on sadism

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incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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