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[in-duh-vij-oo-uh-liz-uh m] /ˌɪn dəˈvɪdʒ u əˌlɪz əm/
a social theory advocating the liberty, rights, or independent action of the individual.
the principle or habit of or belief in independent thought or action.
the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests; egoism.
individual character; individuality.
an individual peculiarity.
  1. the doctrine that only individual things are real.
  2. the doctrine or belief that all actions are determined by, or at least take place for, the benefit of the individual, not of society as a whole.
Origin of individualism
First recorded in 1825-35; individual + -ism
Related forms
overindividualism, noun
superindividualism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for individualism
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He wrote as a liberal in whom the spirit of individualism was active.

  • There was this idealism at the very beginning of their individualism.

    What I Saw in America G. K. Chesterton
  • individualism has been a much misunderstood thing, be it a social movement or a logical condition of inductive thinking.

    The Will to Doubt Alfred H. Lloyd
  • The individualism of Americans resented the interference of government in other matters.

    Society Henry Kalloch Rowe
  • To protect his individualism from taint, the United States soldier must bear part of the financial burden.

    Mobilizing Woman-Power Harriot Stanton Blatch
British Dictionary definitions for individualism


the action or principle of asserting one's independence and individuality; egoism
an individual quirk or peculiarity
another word for laissez faire (sense 1)
(philosophy) the doctrine that only individual things exist and that therefore classes or properties have no reality Compare Platonism, realism (sense 5)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for individualism

"self-centered feeling," 1827, from individual + -ism. As a social philosophy (opposed to communism and socialism) first attested 1851 in writings of J.S. Mill.

A majority can never replace the individual. ... Just as a hundred fools do not make one wise man, a heroic decision is not likely to come from a hundred cowards. [Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf," 1933]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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individualism in Culture

individualism definition

A view that stresses the importance and worth of each person. In economics, it is the doctrine that individuals best serve the public interest by pursuing their own self-interest. For example, the businessman who expands his company to increase his profits also creates jobs for many people and thereby serves the public interest. (See laissez-faire.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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