• synonyms


[an-uh-miz-uh m]
  1. the belief that natural objects, natural phenomena, and the universe itself possess souls.
  2. the belief that natural objects have souls that may exist apart from their material bodies.
  3. the doctrine that the soul is the principle of life and health.
  4. belief in spiritual beings or agencies.
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Origin of animism

1825–35; < Latin anim(a) (see anima) + -ism
Related formsan·i·mist, adjectivean·i·mis·tic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for animistic

Historical Examples of animistic

  • The East Indies, where the population is native, are Animistic.

    The Necessity of Atheism

    Dr. D.M. Brooks

  • I find also no animistic ideas, or practices; no folk-lore and no magic.

    Quaker Hill

    Warren H. Wilson

  • This, of course, is vitalism, and vitalism in its extreme or animistic form.

  • But generally the ideas of Astrology were magical rather than animistic.

  • The animistic soul, on the contrary, unites determinants from both sides.

    Totem and Taboo

    Sigmund Freud

British Dictionary definitions for animistic


  1. the belief that natural objects, phenomena, and the universe itself have desires and intentions
  2. (in the philosophies of Plato and Pythagoras) the hypothesis that there is an immaterial force that animates the universe
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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 animistic



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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

animistic in Culture



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.)

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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.)

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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.