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[sen-sey-shuh-nl-iz-uh m] /sɛnˈseɪ ʃə nlˌɪz əm/
subject matter, language, or style producing or designed to produce startling or thrilling impressions or to excite and please vulgar taste.
the use of or interest in this subject matter, language, or style:
The cheap tabloids relied on sensationalism to increase their circulation.
  1. the doctrine that the good is to be judged only by the gratification of the senses.
  2. the doctrine that all ideas are derived from and are essentially reducible to sensations.
Psychology. sensationism.
Origin of sensationalism
First recorded in 1840-50; sensational + -ism
Related forms
sensationalist, noun, adjective
sensationalistic, adjective
nonsensationalistic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for sensationalism
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The publishers objected to the title because they saw in it a touch of sensationalism.

    Understanding the Scriptures Francis McConnell
  • Here, then, is a statement of facts, divested of all emotion or sensationalism.

    Things as They Are Amy Wilson-Carmichael
  • Locke cannot be truly regarded as the author of sensationalism any more than of idealism.

    Meno Plato
  • It must aim at getting a majority on its side, and this it can only do by sensationalism.

    The New Society Walther Rathenau
  • There is, indeed, another side to their sensationalism which should be noticed.

    Change in the Village (AKA George Bourne) George Sturt
British Dictionary definitions for sensationalism


the use of sensational language, etc, to arouse an intense emotional response
such sensational matter itself
(philosophy) Also called sensualism
  1. the doctrine that knowledge cannot go beyond the analysis of experience
  2. (ethics) the doctrine that the ability to gratify the senses is the only criterion of goodness
(psychol) the theory that all experience and mental life may be explained in terms of sensations and remembered images
(aesthetics) the theory of the beauty of sensuality in the arts
Also called (for senses 3, 4) sensationism
Derived Forms
sensationalist, noun, adjective
sensationalistic, adjective
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 sensationalism

1846 in philosophy, "theory that sensation is the only source of knowledge;" 1865, of journalism that aims to excite the feelings, from sensational + -ism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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