he·​do·​nism | \ ˈhē-də-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce hedonism (audio) \

Essential Meaning of hedonism

: the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life

Full Definition of hedonism

1 : the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life
2 : a way of life based on or suggesting the principles of hedonism she was a perfect specimen of selfish hedonism— Donald Armstrong

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The Modern Definition of Hedonism

When hedonism first appeared in English in the middle of the 19th century, it referred to the doctrines of certain schools of philosophy in ancient Greece (such as the Epicureans and Cyrenaics), who held that happiness or pleasure constituted the chief goal in life. As used today, the word frequently carries a judgmental tinge. If someone is described as living a life of hedonism, the implication is that he or she derives happiness from debauchery rather than, say, spending quality time with family or forming meaningful relationships at work. Hedonism comes from the Greek hēdonē (“pleasure”), which also provides the root of the word anhedonia (“a psychological condition characterized by inability to experience pleasure in normally pleasurable acts”).

Examples of hedonism in a Sentence

their spring break trip to Mexico became an exercise in heedless hedonism
Recent Examples on the Web The French beach club chain is synonymous with hedonism worldwide, and has imported its bottles-and-bikinis approach to a new site just 10 minutes boat ride from Porto Montenegro. Mark Ellwood, Robb Report, 22 Sep. 2021 Genuine pleasure may be on our agenda today, leaving us unsatisfied with mindless hedonism. Tarot Astrologers, chicagotribune.com, 2 Oct. 2021 Nygård, who was born in Finland but grew up in Manitoba, promoted his penchant for hedonism. Washington Post, 30 Sep. 2021 There would be endless opportunities to learn languages, crafts, and sports; to study science, philosophy, and art; to delve into hedonism and asceticism and consider the nature of humanity. Alison Willmore, Vulture, 10 June 2021 Even with skateboarding’s Olympic debut this summer in Tokyo and its likely mainstreaming, hedonism remains popular. Adam Elder, New York Times, 16 July 2021 The louche clothes, the wood-and-wallpaper decor, the soundtrack, the getting-high-and-angling-for-a-threesome hedonism all looked very Boogie Nights/American Hustle. Rose Maura Lorre, Vulture, 18 June 2021 It’s not even necessary to turn to an industry steeped in hedonism to find examples of people who lack any purpose or structure. Kyle Smith, National Review, 5 June 2021 His 2018 Oliver Ranch single-vineyard Cabernet ($150) mingles high-toned floral and exotic spice aromas with savory earth, hedonism with tension and energy. Sara L. Schneider, Robb Report, 21 June 2021

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

1856, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for hedonism

Greek hēdonē pleasure; akin to Greek hēdys sweet — more at sweet

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Time Traveler for hedonism

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The first known use of hedonism was in 1856

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Last Updated

18 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hedonism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hedonism. Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for hedonism


he·​do·​nism | \ ˈhēd-ᵊn-ˌiz-əm How to pronounce hedonism (audio) \

Medical Definition of hedonism

: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life

Other Words from hedonism

hedonist \ -​ᵊn-​əst How to pronounce hedonism (audio) \ noun
hedonistic \ ˌhēd-​ᵊn-​ˈis-​tik How to pronounce hedonism (audio) \ adjective
hedonistically \ -​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce hedonism (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on hedonism

Nglish: Translation of hedonism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hedonism for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hedonism


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