noun sa·dism \ ˈsā-ˌdi-zəm , ˈsa- \
|Updated on: 22 Jul 2018

Definition of sadism

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 : excessive cruelty


play \ˈsā-dist, ˈsa-\ noun


play \sə-ˈdi-stik also sā- or sa-\ adjective


play \sə-ˈdi-sti-k(ə-)lē also sā- or sa-\ adverb

Examples of sadism in a Sentence

  1. a troubled youth with a streak of sadism in him

Recent Examples of sadism from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of sadism

International Scientific Vocabulary, from Marquis de Sade

SADISM Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of sadism for English Language Learners

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

Medical Dictionary


noun sa·dism \ ˈsā-ˌdiz-əm , ˈsad-ˌiz- \

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


\sə-ˈdis-tik also sā- or sa-\ adjective


play \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Biographical Note for sadism

Sade play \sȧd\, Marquis de (Comte Donatien–Alphonse–François) (1740–1814), French soldier and writer. From the time that he was a young nobleman Sade consorted with prostitutes and developed a taste for sexual perversions. He was imprisoned on several occasions for his harsh abuse of prostitutes and gross licentiousness. After arriving at the Bastille in 1784 he began writing erotic novels in which he gave full expression to his sexual fantasies. His most famous novel was The Adversities of Virtue (1787). His works are known for their graphic descriptions of sexual perversions. His last years were spent in an insane asylum at Charenton, where he wrote plays for his fellow inmates to perform. His compulsion for physically and sexually abusing others gave rise to the concept of sadism.

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fullness to the point of excess

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