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

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 Roman Catholic Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, who became a potent symbol of Nicaraguan resistance first to right-wing tyranny and then to Marxist totalitarianism, died of a heart attack early Sunday morning at the age of 92. Glenn Garvin, miamiherald, "Nicaraguan cardinal was symbol of political resistance," 3 June 2018 Season two impressively builds on those assets, fleshing out back stories in a manner that chillingly charts a society's descent into totalitarianism, and which in many ways feels even bleaker (if that's possible) than the first. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'The Handmaid's Tale' expands bleak vision in searing new season," 23 Apr. 2018 In both Babylon Berlin and Fahrenheit 451, truth remains the most pervasive and profound casualty of totalitarianism while also the most abstract. Steve Erickson, Los Angeles Magazine, "HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 Reveals a Blurred Line Between Utopia and Hell," 16 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

18 Nov 2018

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The first known use of totalitarianism was in 1926

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