• synonyms


[at-uh-miz-uh m]
  1. Also called atomic theory. Philosophy. the theory that minute, discrete, finite, and indivisible elements are the ultimate constituents of all matter.
  2. Psychology. a method or theory that reduces all psychological phenomena to simple elements.
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Origin of atomism

First recorded in 1670–80
Related formsat·om·ist, nounat·om·is·tic, at·om·is·ti·cal, adjectiveat·om·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for atomism

Historical Examples of atomism

  • But in this instance the facts do not take us into atomism and anarchy.

    Human Nature and Conduct

    John Dewey

  • Into the history of atomism Cudworth plunges with vast erudition.

  • Mechanism as to motion, atomism as to structure, materialism as to substance, that is the whole system of Democritus.

  • It is the stand-point from which atomism would be adopted as the philosophic system.

    Pedagogics as a System

    Karl Rosenkranz

  • Continuity of growth not atomism is thus the alternative to fixity of principles and aims.

British Dictionary definitions for atomism


  1. an ancient philosophical theory, developed by Democritus and expounded by Lucretius, that the ultimate constituents of the universe are atomsSee atom (def. 3)
    1. any of a number of theories that hold that some objects or phenomena can be explained as constructed out of a small number of distinct types of simple indivisible entities
    2. any theory that holds that an understanding of the parts is logically prior to an understanding of the wholeCompare holism (def. 3)
  2. psychol the theory that experiences and mental states are composed of elementary units
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Derived Formsatomist, noun, adjectiveatomistic or atomistical, adjectiveatomistically, 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