[ ak-tuh-viz-uhm ]
/ ˈæk təˌvɪz əm /
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the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc.
  1. a theory that the essence of reality is pure activity, especially spiritual activity, or process.
  2. a theory that the relationship between the mind and the objects of perception depends upon the action of the mind.
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Origin of activism

From the German word Aktivismus, dating back to 1905–10. See active, -ism
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does activism mean?

Activism is the practice of taking direct action to achieve political or social goals.

Activism can involve supporting a particular cause (or range of causes) or opposing it. Activism uses direct (and continued) actions, such as protests, lawsuits, lobbying, petitions, and strikes.

A person who engages in activism can be called an activist. The word activist implies that such actions are taken consistently—that the activist is consistently active in their activism. For example, protesting is a form of activism, but someone who attends one protest probably wouldn’t be called an activist (unless they continue to take such actions).

Like activist, the word activism is often preceded by a word referring to the kind of cause involved, as in political activism or environmental activism. 

Example: The only way to achieve change is to engage in continued activism—we can’t sit on the sidelines if we want to see results.

Where does activism come from?

The first records of the word activism come from around the early 1900s. It comes from the German word Aktivismus. It’s basically a combination of active and the suffix -ism, which indicates a practice or doctrine. The related suffix -ist is used in words that refer to a person who practices something or holds certain principles, as in activist.

Activism implies active participation in a cause—participation that is consistent and lasts. The word is often used in the context of protests but does mean the same exact thing—protests are just one form of activism.

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What are some other forms related to activism?

What are some synonyms for activism?

What are some words that share a root or word element with activism


What are some words that often get used in discussing activism?



How is activism used in real life?

Activism typically involves work for or against change in political and social areas.


Try using activism!

Which of the following actions can be a form of activism?

A. protests
B. lawsuits
C. lobbying
D. all of the above

How to use activism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for activism

/ (ˈæktɪˌvɪzəm) /

a policy of taking direct and often militant action to achieve an end, esp a political or social one

Derived forms of activism

activist, noun
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