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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from solipsism

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

Did You Know?

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 An entirely individual morality, in its vision, is a kind of solipsism doomed to fail. James Poniewozik, New York Times, "‘The Good Place’ and ‘BoJack Horseman’ Took Us to Hell and Back," 29 Jan. 2020 As is often the case when a character starts throwing around charges of solipsism, the same could be said of the movie itself. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Black Bear': Film Review | Sundance 2020," 27 Jan. 2020 Its critique of masculine solipsism is devastating. Ron Charles, Washington Post, "A.R. Moxon’s ‘The Revisionaries’ might be the weirdest novel of the year," 3 Dec. 2019 The thought leader of the hippie girls is played by that avatar of feminine passive-aggressive flibbertigibbet solipsism, Lena Dunham, the polar opposite of the no-nonsense, two-fisted, self-contained, masculine ideal represented by Cliff. Kyle Smith, National Review, "The Shocking Right-Wing Tinge of Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood," 13 Dec. 2019 Blake’s and Rex’s and Johnson’s admirable honesty sometimes creeps toward solipsism, implying that there is the man’s inner life and then there is everything and everyone else. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "When Music’s Sad Boys Chase Happiness," 24 Oct. 2019 Even Jones’s strong-but-silent Phillip creates a vivid comic character; McNamara’s Alana, meantime, is a superb manifestation of neurotic solipsism. Peter Marks, Washington Post, "‘Slave Play’ is a funny, scalding, walk along the boundary between black and white in America," 6 Oct. 2019 One reader, with the username solipsism, objected to Gackle’s claims about what was and wasn’t interesting. Anna Wiener, The New Yorker, "The Lonely Work of Moderating Hacker News," 8 Aug. 2019 Introversion isn’t solipsism; solitude isn’t loneliness. Caitlin Gibson, Washington Post, "The rise of the only child: How America is coming around to the idea of ‘just one’," 19 June 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of solipsism

1874, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for solipsism

Latin solus alone + ipse self

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about solipsism

Time Traveler for solipsism

Time Traveler

The first known use of solipsism was in 1874

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about solipsism

Statistics for solipsism

Last Updated

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Solipsism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for solipsism


How to pronounce solipsism (audio)

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

More from Merriam-Webster on solipsism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with solipsism Encyclopedia article about solipsism

Comments on solipsism

What made you want to look up solipsism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

February 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of probity?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!