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 : extreme cruelty

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 But just as therapy is complicated, our relationship with parents who have tormented us with indifference or even sadism is complicated. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 11 May 2022 To the sadism of white America, Davis contrasts the Native reverence for living creatures. Nathaniel Rich, The Atlantic, 15 Feb. 2022 The flip side of masochism is sadism (named after an eighteenth-century French nobleman), in which someone derives pleasure from inflicting pain of a physical or emotional nature. Angie Jones, Glamour, 17 Mar. 2022 But this can also sound like a nonviolent (and still extremely painful) form of sadism. New York Times, 18 Mar. 2022 The Harder They Fall takes its cues from Quentin Tarantino’s funny sadism — the opening family-massacre scene imitates Inglourious Basterds, and each following episode evokes Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. Armond White, National Review, 21 Jan. 2022 The sadism in Spiral is relatively toned down, with the various implements of impalement and slaughter presented briefly, which makes the film not so much a reinvention as a dilution. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, 13 May 2021 There’s a long-familiar tradition in film of refinement meshing with evil, as with the epicurean sadism of movie Nazis and arch-criminals. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 25 Oct. 2021 The turn toward sadism that began with Daniel Craig’s angry, sinister interpretation of 007 has reached an unconscionable level of heartlessness. Armond White, National Review, 8 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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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Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Sadism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for sadism


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 sadism (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on sadism

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


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