ma·​te·​ri·​al·​ism | \ mə-ˈtir-ē-ə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce materialism (audio) \

Definition of materialism

1a : a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter (see matter entry 1 sense 2) scientific materialism
b : a doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress
c : a doctrine that economic or social change is materially caused — compare historical materialism
2 : a preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things materialism, hedonism, and the overriding quest for personal gratification— A. M. Schlesinger, Jr.

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Other Words from materialism

materialist \ mə-​ˈtir-​ē-​ə-​list How to pronounce materialism (audio) \ noun or adjective

Examples of materialism in a Sentence

the materialism of modern society
Recent Examples on the Web An album about vanity and materialism and mortality and faded love and the hollowness of success: Hotel California. James Parker, The Atlantic, 3 Sep. 2021 By obscuring the personal and relational dimension of life and of the material world, money can indeed swamp the world with avarice, materialism, and unconstrained consumption. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 3 July 2021 Political and cultural antagonism to Jews — in politics, entertainment, and mainstream media — is the product of a thoroughgoing materialism. Joseph Loconte, National Review, 30 May 2021 There are many who decry today’s consumer culture, with its emphasis on disposable materialism, but these pieces have been loved and preserved for a long time. oregonlive, 7 July 2021 An acerbic commentary on materialism and corporate America, this has since become a cult classic. Ben Flanagan |, al, 3 July 2021 The young man leaves with a copy of the NIV and returns lauding the materialism of Marx. Luther Ray Abel, National Review, 30 June 2021 Loomis was an idealist, but also a eugenicist; MH, a radical leader who has supposedly renounced materialism, wears expensive jeans and motorcycle boots and owns a lake house. Claire Messud, Harper's Magazine, 22 June 2021 Carlin, who died in 2008, was known for his humorous social commentary and criticism of materialism. Devon Link, USA TODAY, 17 June 2021

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

1696, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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The first known use of materialism was in 1696

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Last Updated

17 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Materialism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of materialism

: a way of thinking that gives too much importance to material possessions rather than to spiritual or intellectual things
: the belief that only material things exist


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