to·​tal·​i·​tar·​i·​an·​ism (ˌ)tō-ˌta-lə-ˈter-ē-ə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce totalitarianism (audio)
: centralized control by an autocratic authority
: the political concept that the citizen should be totally subject to an absolute state authority

Examples of totalitarianism in a Sentence

in times of crisis, when a nation's people are frightened, there are often calls for totalitarianism
Recent Examples on the Web Trained as both a psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst, Lifton used the interviews to understand the psychological—rather than the political or ideological—structure of totalitarianism. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, 12 Nov. 2023 American socialists would be called upon to answer for Soviet totalitarianism and Castro’s Cuba. Debs, with his rousing speeches harkening to the Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln, had strained to make socialism distinctly American. Ross Barkan, The New Republic, 3 Aug. 2023 Planning is top-down and requires centralized authority, and, whatever that authority’s motives, this inevitably devolves into totalitarianism. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 17 July 2023 Seeing Superman’s ideals be warped into totalitarianism only enhances the character’s cultural standing, making Superman’s usual choice to be mankind’s symbol of hope all the more inspiring. Daniel Dockery, Vulture, 6 July 2023 At the height of the pandemic in 2020, McCaw likened social-distancing rules at local supermarkets to Soviet and Nazi totalitarianism. Paul Farhi, Washington Post, 3 Aug. 2023 In this form of partial totalitarianism, people have had time to adjust and experience each step in the decline from their previous way of life as a new normal. Andrei Kolesnikov, Foreign Affairs, 7 Apr. 2023 What made communism so dangerous was the theory of totalitarianism, which turned out to be wrong, but it was believed. How To Save A Country, The New Republic, 4 May 2023 Milan Kundera, whose dissident writings in communist Czechoslovakia transformed him into an exiled satirist of totalitarianism, has died in Paris. Elaine Ganley, Fortune, 12 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'totalitarianism.' 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

1926, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of totalitarianism was in 1926

Dictionary Entries Near totalitarianism

Cite this Entry

“Totalitarianism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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