so·​lip·​sism | \ ˈsō-ləp-ˌsi-zəm How to pronounce solipsism (audio) , ˈsä- \

Definition of solipsism

: a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing also : extreme egocentrism

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Other Words from solipsism

solipsist \ ˈsō-​ləp-​sist How to pronounce solipsism (audio) , ˈsä-​ləp-​ , sə-​ˈlip-​ \ noun

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Fans of René Descartes credit the French philosopher with introducing solipsism as a major problem of modern philosophy, but the word solipsism most likely sprang from a French satire written by Giulio Clemente Scotti in 1652 called La Monarchie des Solipses. The term wasn't used in English until the late 19th century, when solipsism, a composite of the Latin solus ("alone") and ipse ("self"), was applied purely in the philosophical sense. Recently the word has taken on another, more general sense, suggesting an ego-driven selfishness or self-indulgence.

Examples of solipsism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But Berlant and Novak’s quest, for all its solipsism, also yields something valuable: their conversation, which functions, for the listener, as a form of exposure therapy. Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, "Puzzling Through Our Eternal Quest for Wellness," 22 Mar. 2021 Art both refines and connects, bridging the chasm between our solipsism and the world. Washington Post, "Phillips Collection is turning 100 and showing what future of classic museums can be," 9 Mar. 2021 Some reviewers said his writing betrayed a solipsism that was extreme even by the generous standards to which memoirists are held. Margalit Fox, New York Times, "Ved Mehta, Writer Who Illuminated India, Is Dead at 86," 10 Jan. 2021 There are also many theories that flirt with simulation in the guise of radical solipsism and skepticism. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "A Study Shows There's a 50% Chance We're Living in a Simulation," 13 Oct. 2020 The solipsism born of social distancing and months of relative confinement leads me to see everything in relation to my current problem, which is online kindergarten. Lydia Kiesling, The New Yorker, "The Aspirational Android Parenting of “Raised by Wolves”," 5 Oct. 2020 The solipsism problem thwarts efforts to explain consciousness. John Horgan, Scientific American, "How Do I Know I'm Not the Only Conscious Being in the Universe?," 11 Sep. 2020 For Moshfegh, pride is replaced by solipsism as the dangerous pleasure that must be overcome. Anne Enright, The New York Review of Books, "Wanting Wrong," 6 July 2020 Her stories often consider our solipsism and short-sightedness, the deviousness of politicians and the destruction of our planet. Emily Bobrow, WSJ, "‘A Children’s Bible’ Review: Didn’t It Rain, Children?," 15 May 2020

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

1874, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for solipsism

Latin solus alone + ipse self

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Time Traveler for solipsism

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The first known use of solipsism was in 1874

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Last Updated

29 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Solipsism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for solipsism



English Language Learners Definition of solipsism

technical : a theory in philosophy that your own existence is the only thing that is real or that can be known

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