world-build·​ing ˈwərl(d)-ˈbil-diŋ How to pronounce world-building (audio)
variants or less commonly world building or worldbuilding
: the creation of a fictional world (especially within the science fiction and fantasy genres) that is believable and consistent within the context of the story
The game pushes the limits of the PS4 graphically and packs so much mythos and backstory into its world-building that at times it feels more like a novel than a video game.Patrick Shanley
In my opinion, no one does world-building as well as Kate Elliott. It's subtle … but the world, culture, and societies she creates feel solid. If you think about them when you close the book, you can see how they could work; how the economics could work, how the governing could work, how the cultures formed.Michelle West
In postapocalyptic stories, world building typically emphasizes the new reality: new vocabulary to learn, new systems of government to understand, new social norms to parse.Shirley Li
It sounds like a lot to take in, but "The Sandman" neatly avoids many genre show pitfalls. While at times its premise and worldbuilding do feel a bit murky, for the most part, it's even less confusing for a layman to get into than other sprawling similar shows such as "Westworld" or "The Witcher."Lauren Sarner

Examples of world-building in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Fury Road’s blunt, head-on narrative has given way to a more episodic structure and an emphasis, much like that in the Dune franchise, on immense world-building. Tom Gliatto, Peoplemag, 24 May 2024 Turns out, world-building — that invaluable tool of 21st-century Hollywood franchises — may not be in his wheelhouse. Peter Debruge, Variety, 16 May 2024 That’s the premise behind Netflix’s new supernatural series Dead Boy Detectives, which combines the magical world-building of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman universe with the case-of-the-week structure of a police procedural., 3 May 2024 And both sets have been enormous, world-building, culture-conquering affairs, with huge Hot 100-topping lead singles and no shortage of critical and fan discourse over their deeper implications. Andrew Unterberger, Billboard, 3 Sep. 2019 Elsewhere in the interview, Elliott discussed some of the plans for world-building in this next film. Charlotte Phillipp, Peoplemag, 22 Apr. 2024 With its fun characters, vault and timeline mysteries, intricate world-building and video-game Easter eggs, there's a lot to think about — and even better, discuss with friends. USA TODAY, 18 Apr. 2024 Fair warning: One piece of the puzzle of Maas' expert storytelling (and world-building!) comes in the form of some rather raunchy intimate scenes between her protagonists — and maybe some side characters too, every once in a while. Julia Moore, Peoplemag, 15 Apr. 2024 The elaborate world-building and precinct plot yielded a timeless film that would be studied and enjoyed for decades to come. Jordan Runtagh, Peoplemag, 31 Mar. 2024

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

Word History

First Known Use

1983, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of world-building was in 1983

Dictionary Entries Near world-building

Cite this Entry

“World-building.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jun. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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