[ dih-tur-muh-niz-uhm ]
See synonyms for determinism on
  1. the doctrine that all facts and events exemplify natural laws.

  2. the doctrine that all events, including human choices and decisions, have sufficient causes.

Origin of determinism

First recorded in 1840–50; determin(e) + -ism

Other words from determinism

  • de·ter·min·ist, noun, adjective
  • de·ter·min·is·tic [dih-tur-muh-nis-tik] /dɪˌtɜr məˈnɪs tɪk/ adjective
  • non·de·ter·min·ist, noun, adjective

Words that may be confused with determinism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use determinism in a sentence

  • The philosophic Determinist would denounce the offender's conduct, but would not denounce the offender.

    God and my Neighbour | Robert Blatchford
  • The Determinist would say that Bill Sikes had committed a crime, and that he ought to be restrained, and taught better.

    God and my Neighbour | Robert Blatchford
  • That Determinist conclusion would be followed by the usual inadequate subscription.

    God and my Neighbour | Robert Blatchford
  • You may say, in the case of Sikes and the peer, that the logic of the Determinist is sound, but ineffective: nothing comes of it.

    God and my Neighbour | Robert Blatchford
  • Admit the Determinist theory, and all would be taught to do well, and most would take kindly to the lesson.

    God and my Neighbour | Robert Blatchford

British Dictionary definitions for determinism


/ (dɪˈtɜːmɪˌnɪzəm) /

  1. Also called: necessitarianism the philosophical doctrine that all events including human actions and choices are fully determined by preceding events and states of affairs, and so that freedom of choice is illusory: Compare free will (def. 1b)

  2. the scientific doctrine that all occurrences in nature take place in accordance with natural laws

  1. the principle in classical mechanics that the values of dynamic variables of a system and of the forces acting on the system at a given time, completely determine the values of the variables at any later time

Derived forms of determinism

  • determinist, noun, adjective
  • deterministic, 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

Cultural definitions for determinism


In ethics, the view that human actions are entirely controlled by previous conditions, operating under laws of nature. Determinism is often understood as ruling out free will.

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.