[an-uh-miz-uh m]


the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls.
the belief that natural objects have souls that may exist apart from their material bodies.
the doctrine that the soul is the principle of life and health.
belief in spiritual beings or agencies.

Origin of animism

1825–35; < Latin anim(a) (see anima) + -ism
Related formsan·i·mist, adjectivean·i·mis·tic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for animism

Historical Examples of animism

  • Animism in this sense is undoubtedly the beginning of some at least of the great religions.

    History of Religion

    Allan Menzies

  • Magic has been cleverly defined as "the strategy of animism."

  • In its essential elements it is a commingling of Animism and ancestor-worship.

    The Shinto Cult

    Milton Spenser Terry

  • Fetishism, phallicism, animism, and tree- and serpent-worship were very common.

  • Now this is connected with the question of animism, preanimism, and dynanimism.

    The Group Mind

    William McDougall

British Dictionary definitions for animism



the belief that natural objects, phenomena, and the universe itself have desires and intentions
(in the philosophies of Plato and Pythagoras) the hypothesis that there is an immaterial force that animates the universe
Derived Formsanimist, nounanimistic (ˌænɪˈmɪstɪk), adjective

Word Origin for animism

C19: from Latin anima vital breath, spirit
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

Word Origin and History for animism

1866, reintroduced by English anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Taylor (1832-1917), who defined it (1871) as the "theory of the universal animation of nature," from Latin anima "life, breath, soul" (see animus) + -ism.

Earlier sense was of "doctrine that animal life is produced by an immaterial soul" (1832), from German Animismus, coined c.1720 by physicist/chemist Georg Ernst Stahl (1660-1734) based on the concept of the anima mundi. Animist is attested from 1819, in Stahl's sense; animisic is first recorded 1871.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for animism



The belief that natural objects such as rivers and rocks possess a soul or spirit. Anima is the Latin word for “soul” or “spirit.” (See voodoo.)



The belief, common among so-called primitive people, that objects and natural phenomena, such as rivers, rocks, and wind, are alive and have feelings and intentions. Animistic beliefs form the basis of many cults. (See also fetish and totemism.)

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