to·​tal·​i·​tar·​i·​an·​ism | \ (ˌ)tō-ˌta-lə-ˈter-ē-ə-ˌni-zəm \

Definition of totalitarianism

1 : centralized control by an autocratic authority
2 : the political concept that the citizen should be totally subject to an absolute state authority

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Examples of totalitarianism in a Sentence

in times of crisis, when a nation's people are frightened, there are often calls for totalitarianism

Recent Examples on the Web

That’s clear in China, which has turned regulation of the internet to the purposes of a simultaneously traditional and innovative 21st-century totalitarianism. Crispin Sartwell, WSJ, "What’s Worse Than Facebook?," 6 Jan. 2019 For conservatives, fascism is totalitarianism masquerading as the nanny state. Sean Illing, Vox, "A Yale philosopher on fascism, truth, and Donald Trump.," 15 Dec. 2018 China is making a wrong turn toward totalitarianism under its new maximum leader, but the U.S. and the West should have confidence in freedom to prevail in the long run. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "What to Do About Huawei?," 11 Dec. 2018 There was idealism in the protests but also cynicism and a touch of totalitarianism. Ted Van Dyk, WSJ, "Democrats Haven’t Turned Back From 1968," 18 Oct. 2018 This totalitarianism isn’t solely a problem for human rights. Claudia Rosett, WSJ, "Only Freedom Can Disarm Kim," 31 May 2018 Casual references to twentieth century totalitarianism have been cropping up lately like clover in the lawn. Josephine Livingstone, New Republic, "Losing the Twentieth Century," 8 Feb. 2018 By its nature, totalitarianism conspires to keep the conscience in a state of slumber. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Ismail Kadare: The Conscience of His People," 15 June 2018 Before, there was a theoretical certainty — Marxism bad, totalitarianism bad. Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, "Before ‘The Americans’ and ‘Homeland,’ Russian TV spies were simple villains. No more.," 2 May 2018

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

1926, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

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The first known use of totalitarianism was in 1926

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a complex dispute or argument

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