phi·​los·​o·​phy | \ fə-ˈlä-s(ə-)fē How to pronounce philosophy (audio) \
plural philosophies

Essential Meaning of philosophy

1 : the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc. a professor of philosophy Her degree is in philosophy and religion.
2 : a particular set of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc. The group eventually split over conflicting political philosophies.
3 : a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live Her main cooking philosophy is to use only fresh ingredients. My philosophy is to live and let live. [=let other people live the way they want to] His philosophy of life [=his way of living] is to treat people as he would like to be treated.

Full Definition of philosophy

1a(1) : all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts
(2) : the sciences and liberal arts exclusive of medicine, law, and theology a doctor of philosophy
(3) : the 4-year college course of a major seminary
b(1) archaic : physical science
(2) : ethics
c : a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology
2a : pursuit of wisdom
b : a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means
c : an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs
3a : a system of philosophical concepts
b : a theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought the philosophy of war
4a : the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group
b : calmness of temper and judgment befitting a philosopher

Synonyms for philosophy


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Examples of philosophy in a Sentence

There's plenty of blame to go around: poor regulation, eight years of a failed Republican economic philosophy, Wall Street-friendly Democrats who helped stymie reform, misguided bipartisan efforts to promote home ownership, Wall Street greed, corrupt CEOs, a botched rescue effort, painfully fallible central bankers. — Daniel Gross, Newsweek, 9 Mar. 2009 Broadly speaking, philosophy has three concerns: how the world hangs together, how our beliefs can be justified, and how to live. — Jim Holt, New York Times Book Review, 15 Feb. 2009 Almost none of the kids were older than twenty-five, as if there were a sell-by date on radical social philosophy, a legal age limit after which one must surrender lofty ideals and shave off all dreadlocks. — Matthew Power, Harper's, March 2008 In their mission statement, the editors bragged of their firm commitment to equality and social justice, but their philosophy didn't prevent them from summoning Lindsey to perform all their menial tasks. — Kim Wong Keltner, The Dim Sum of All Things, 2004 Her degree is in philosophy and religion. The group eventually split over conflicting political philosophies. Her main cooking philosophy is to use only fresh ingredients.
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Recent Examples on the Web Moreso than its impact on the final outcome of this game, the decision calls into question Silas' entire philosophy regarding the season. Rahat Huq, Chron, 18 Nov. 2021 The Times uncovered everything from a work-from-anywhere program, to free online philosophy classes. Justin Ray, Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov. 2021 The Stanford Review, philosophy student Leo Spunt cited a chilling effect on conversations about controversial topics like Greek Life, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and affirmative action. Lauren Hepler, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Nov. 2021 Kurant studied philosophy and art history at the University of Lodz and, at the urging of her more practical parents, also studied photography at the Lodz Film School. New York Times, 12 Nov. 2021 Brand stories help customers easily understand a company’s philosophy. Alex Kreger, Forbes, 12 Nov. 2021 Jordan believes high-tackle numbers for inside linebackers are baked into the Oregon State defensive philosophy - one of the major factors in his decision - and his goal is to eventually carry the torch passed on by Roberts and Omar Speights. oregonlive, 10 Nov. 2021 Audrey Hepburn stars as Jo Stockton, a shy New York City bookshop assistant who dreams of studying philosophy in Paris. Liam Hess, Vogue, 10 Nov. 2021 Transcendentalist philosophy expressed a profound intuition of changes that were under way in America, in the details of work and the economy. Mark Greif, The Atlantic, 9 Nov. 2021

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for philosophy

Middle English philosophie, from Anglo-French, from Latin philosophia, from Greek, from philosophos philosopher

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Time Traveler for philosophy

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The first known use of philosophy was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near philosophy



philosophy of life

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Last Updated

20 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Philosophy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2021.

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More Definitions for philosophy


phi·​los·​o·​phy | \ fə-ˈlä-sə-fē How to pronounce philosophy (audio) \
plural philosophies

Kids Definition of philosophy

1 : the study of the basic ideas about knowledge, right and wrong, reasoning, and the value of things
2 : a specific set of ideas of a person or a group Greek philosophy
3 : a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live Live and let live—that's my philosophy.

More from Merriam-Webster on philosophy

Nglish: Translation of philosophy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of philosophy for Arabic Speakers


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