Philistine

1 of 2

noun

Phi·​lis·​tine ˈfi-lə-ˌstēn How to pronounce Philistine (audio)
fə-ˈli-stən,
-ˌstēn;
ˈfi-lə-stən
1
: a native or inhabitant of ancient Philistia
2
often not capitalized
a
: a person who is guided by materialism and is usually disdainful of intellectual or artistic values
b
: one uninformed in a special area of knowledge
philistinism
ˈfi-lə-ˌstē-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce Philistine (audio)
fə-ˈli-stə-
-ˌstē-
ˈfi-lə-stə-
noun often capitalized

Philistine

2 of 2

adjective

1
or philistine : guided by materialism and disdainful of intellectual or artistic values
a philistine attitude toward opera
Greenfield's anti-hero, Larry Lazar, is not a conventionally philistine tycoon, trampling on the souls of artists.William A. Henry
… future epochs will remember us as a coarse and philistine people who squandered our bottomlessly rich cultural inheritance for short-term and meaningless financial advantage.Gerald Howard
It is a fact of philistine life that amusement is where the money is.William H. Gass
2
: of or relating to the people of ancient Philistia
Philistine cities
Philistine artifacts

Did you know?

Philistines, Ancient and Modern

The original Philistines were a people who occupied the southern coast of Palestine more than 3,000 years ago. Enemies of the ancient Israelites, they were portrayed in the Bible as a crude and warlike race. This led to the use of Philistine in English to refer, humorously, to an enemy into whose hands one had fallen or might fall. Several centuries later, an extended sense of philistine denoting “a materialistic person who is disdainful of intellectual or artistic values” came into being as a result of the following: a violent town-gown conflict in the German university town of Jena in the 17th century prompted a local clergyman to address the events in a sermon in which he alluded to the Biblical Philistines. This caused the university students to apply the German word Philister (equivalent to English Philistine) to the townspeople, whom they perceived as unenlightened and hostile to education. English speakers familiar with the story began using philistine in this way by the early 1800s, soon extending its reference to any enemy of culture. The “anti-intellectual” sense of philistine was popularized by the writer Matthew Arnold, who famously applied it to members of the English middle class in his book Culture and Anarchy (1869).

Word History

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1578, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of Philistine was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near Philistine

Cite this Entry

“Philistine.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Philistine. Accessed 30 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

Philistine

noun
Phi·​lis·​tine ˈfil-ə-ˌstēn How to pronounce Philistine (audio) fə-ˈlis-tən How to pronounce Philistine (audio)
-ˌtēn
1
: a member of an ancient race that lived in the coastal regions of Palestine
2
often not capitalized
a
: a person who dislikes or is indifferent to art and cultural activities and whose only interest is in making money
b
: a person who lacks taste or knowledge
philistine adjective often capitalized

More from Merriam-Webster on Philistine

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


Fashionable Words

  • dog-sunglasses-scarf
  • Which of these items is named for a deadly weapon?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?

PLAY