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[mod-er-niz-uh m] /ˈmɒd ərˌnɪz əm/
modern character, tendencies, or values; adherence to or sympathy with what is modern.
a modern usage or characteristic.
(initial capital letter) Theology.
  1. the movement in Roman Catholic thought that sought to interpret the teachings of the Church in the light of philosophic and scientific conceptions prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: condemned by Pope Pius X in 1907.
  2. the liberal theological tendency in Protestantism in the 20th century.
(sometimes initial capital letter) a deliberate philosophical and practical estrangement or divergence from the past in the arts and literature occurring especially in the course of the 20th century and taking form in any of various innovative movements and styles.
Origin of modernism
First recorded in 1730-40; modern + -ism
Related forms
antimodernism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for modernism
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The recent struggle against Kantian and fideist modernism is a struggle for life.

    Tragic Sense Of Life Miguel de Unamuno
  • We know him well: Xenophon's modernism comes out in these things.

    Cyropaedia Xenophon
  • In the youthful flush of her modernism she was impatient with that fumbling around with what other men had thought.

    Lifted Masks Susan Glaspell
  • But now all is crumbling before the poisonous onslaught of modernism.

    Sugar Plum Reginald Bretnor
  • Like most industrial countries, Austria is plagued with issues which follow in the wake of modernism—whatever that term may imply.

British Dictionary definitions for modernism


modern tendencies, characteristics, thoughts, etc, or the support of these
something typical of contemporary life or thought
a 20th-century divergence in the arts from previous traditions, esp in architecture See International Style
(capital) (RC Church) the movement at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries that sought to adapt doctrine to the supposed requirements of modern thought
Derived Forms
modernist, noun, adjective
modernistic, adjective
modernistically, adverb
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 modernism

1737, "deviation from the ancient and classical manner" [Johnson, who calls it "a word invented by Swift"], from modern + -ism. From 1830 as "modern ways and styles." Used in theology since 1901. As a movement in the arts (away from classical or traditional modes), from 1929.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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