so·​lip·​sism ˈsō-ləp-ˌsi-zəm How to pronounce solipsism (audio)
: 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
ˈsō-ləp-sist How to pronounce solipsism (audio)

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French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) can be blamed for the idea that if one whittles away beliefs about which one cannot be certain, one will eventually land at the existence of the self as a singular certainty; however, he cannot be blamed for either the word solipsism or the theory it refers to. (Descartes avoided falling into solipsism by positing that ideas known with the same clarity as the existence of the self is known must also be true.) Philosophical application of the word likely owes something to the French translation of a satiric work written by Venetian scholar Giulio Clemente Scotti in 1645 called Monarchia Solipsorum —in French, La Monarchie des Solipses. The pertinent term is a composite of the Latin solus ("alone") and ipse ("self").

Examples of solipsism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web As always in Davis’s fiction, an almost imperceptible line divides pedantry from precision, enthusiasm from solipsism. Merve Emre, The New Yorker, 1 Oct. 2023 In the United States, meanwhile, a solipsism took root. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 15 Sep. 2023 Taken together the contradictions are as much a part of the band’s legend as John Lennon’s solipsism or Paul McCartney’s eagerness to please. D.j. Taylor, WSJ, 20 Oct. 2023 Instead, Swift specializes in degraded girl-pop — teenage solipsism, the silliness that kids will ideally outgrow. Armond White, National Review, 18 Oct. 2023 Are there only two paths for photography—vampirism and solipsism? Julian Lucas, The New Yorker, 9 Oct. 2023 Open City can’t be said to endorse Julius’s aesthetic solipsism. Adam Kirsch, Harper's Magazine, 14 Aug. 2023 The hysterics and solipsism of the White characters — including teenagers Megan White (Molly Hager), Maegan Whitehall (Alyse Alan Louis) and Meagan Whitehead (Lauren Marcus) — thwart Keesha’s efforts at centering her story. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 20 Apr. 2023 MariNaomi worries that our relationships, our feelings, our selves may be nothing but thoughts — a sad collage of solipsism. Noah Berlatsky, Los Angeles Times, 5 May 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin solus alone + ipse self

First Known Use

1836, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of solipsism was in 1836


Dictionary Entries Near solipsism

Cite this Entry

“Solipsism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

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