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

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Barber interpreted the canton’s political success as proof that the fear of liberals about Rousseau’s ideas leading inevitably to totalitarianism was ill founded. Win Mccormack, The New Republic, "A Rebirth of Communal Liberty?," 26 Dec. 2019 The former, employing privacy-annihilating surveillance by digital technologies, is inflicting totalitarianism of a hitherto impossible intensity. George Will, National Review, "Time Is on Taiwan’s Side — but It Needs U.S. Support," 26 Sep. 2019 The Borg are a fantasy of totalitarianism, not a technological prediction. The Economist, "Can technology plan economies and destroy democracy?," 18 Dec. 2019 The result is a thrilling and worthy continuation of Atwood’s indelible dystopia—another warning that totalitarianism is always lurking just around the corner. Related Entertainment The 10 Best Fiction Books of the 2010s Buy now: The Testaments 1. Lucy Feldman, Time, "The 10 Best Fiction Books of 2019," 22 Nov. 2019 Anyone who remembers The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, a far less hermetic novel, will know that angels are evil, the utopian enablers of totalitarianism who lend a celestial smile to conformity. Jonathan Rosen, The Atlantic, "Does Milan Kundera Still Matter?," 23 June 2015

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.

See More

First Known Use of totalitarianism

1926, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about totalitarianism

Time Traveler for totalitarianism

Time Traveler

The first known use of totalitarianism was in 1926

See more words from the same year

Statistics for totalitarianism

Last Updated

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Totalitarianism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on totalitarianism

What made you want to look up totalitarianism? 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

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
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!