• synonyms


[kuh-loh-nee-uh-liz-uh m]
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  1. the control or governing influence of a nation over a dependent country, territory, or people.
  2. the system or policy by which a nation maintains or advocates such control or influence.
  3. the state or condition of being colonial.
  4. an idea, custom, or practice peculiar to a colony.
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Origin of colonialism

First recorded in 1850–55; colonial + -ism
Related formsco·lo·ni·al·ist, noun, adjectiveco·lo·ni·al·is·tic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for colonialism


  1. the policy and practice of a power in extending control over weaker peoples or areasAlso called: imperialism
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Derived Formscolonialist, noun, 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

Word Origin and History for colonialism


1853, "ways or speech of colonial persons," from colonial + -ism. Meaning "the system of colonial rule" is from 1886.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

colonialism in Culture


The control of one nation by “transplanted” people of another nation — often a geographically distant nation that has a different culture and dominant racial or ethnic group. (See ethnicity.)

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A classic example of colonialism is the control of India by Britain from the eighteenth century to 1947.


Control that is economic and cultural, rather than political, is often called neocolonialism.
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.