[ fash-iz-uhm ]
/ ˈfæʃ ɪz əm /
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(sometimes initial capital letter) a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
(sometimes initial capital letter) the philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.
(initial capital letter) a political movement that employs the principles and methods of fascism, especially the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922–43.


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Origin of fascism

1915–20; <Italian fascismo, equivalent to fasc(io) bundle, political group (see fasces) + -ismo-ism


an·ti·fas·cism, nounpro·fas·cism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does fascism mean?

Fascism is a system of government led by a dictator who typically rules by forcefully and often violently suppressing opposition and criticism, controlling all industry and commerce, and promoting nationalism and often racism.

The word is sometimes capitalized, especially when it specifically refers to the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini in Italy from 1922 to 1943, or authoritarian systems similar to his, including those of Adolf Hitler in Germany and Francisco Franco in Spain.

Fascism can also refer to an ideology based on this form of rule, or to the use of its methods. More broadly, fascism is used to refer to any ideology or movement seen as authoritarian, nationalistic, and extremely right wing, especially when fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism.

The term fascist can be a noun referring generally to someone who has such views, or, more specifically, to a member of such a government or movement. Fascist can also be used as an adjective describing something involving or promoting fascism.

Apart from their literal (and often capitalized) use to refer to the regime of Mussolini, the words fascism and fascist are typically used negatively as a criticism of such practices and ideologies—fascists typically avoid calling themselves fascists due to the negative history associated with the terms.

That history includes the rise of fascism in the 1920s and ’30s, the Holocaust perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazis, and other atrocities and oppression committed under fascist regimes. Interest in the history of fascism and the word itself has increased in the 21st century, along with a global rise of nationalism and movements associated with fascism.

Where does fascism come from?

The first records of the word fascism in English come from around the 1920s. It comes from the Italian fascismo, from fascio, meaning “political group.” Mussolini formed these small political groups into a political party, Partito Nazionale Fascista—the National Fascist Party. Fascism and the Italian fascio ultimately derive from the Latin fascis, meaning “bundle” (the plural form is fasces). In ancient Rome, fasces consisted of a bundle of rods with an axe blade sticking out. This was used as a symbol of a government official’s power. The Italian fascists brought back the fasces as a symbol of their brand of nationalism, which became known as fascism. The suffix -ism indicates a doctrine or set of principles.

As an ideology, fascism typically centers around extreme nationalism and an opposition to democracy and liberalism. In practice, fascism revolves around a ruler who uses absolute power to suppress the individual freedom of citizens, making everyone completely subject to the power of the state. To achieve this, fascism often uses violent methods for political ends. In the context of a fascist government, this often involves the use of the military against citizens.

Fascist leaders typically gain support by appealing to people’s nationalism and racism, especially by promoting suspicion or hatred of people that they label as foreigners or otherwise cast as illegitimate citizens—as Hitler did with the Jews in Germany. Such leaders often reinforce these themes among their followers with rallies and mass parades (developing what’s sometimes called a cult of personality).

Fascism is often considered a form of totalitarianism, in which the government controls almost every aspect of ordinary life. (Some left-wing forms of government, such as forms of communism, are also considered to be totalitarian.)

Today, the terms fascist and fascism are often applied in a general way to practices that resemble those of military dictatorships, especially when based on nationalism, racism, and authoritarian rule.

What is antifascism?

Antifascism is active opposition to fascism. Those who actively oppose fascism can be called antifascists. The first antifascist groups were those opposed to the rule of Mussolini, but there have been many others since then. The term antifascist is the basis of the word Antifa, which typically refers to a movement that opposes fascism.

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What are some other forms related to fascism?

  • fascist (noun, adjective)
  • antifascism (noun)
  • profascism (noun)
  • fascitize (verb)

What are some words that share a root or word element with fascism

What are some words that often get used in discussing fascism?

How is fascism used in real life?

The word fascism is used in both specific and general ways to refer to fascist governments and the types of methods used by them. It’s typically used in a critical way due to the violence and racism associated with fascism.



How to use fascism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for fascism (1 of 2)

/ (ˈfæʃɪzəm) /

noun (sometimes capital)
any ideology or movement inspired by Italian Fascism, such as German National Socialism; any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism
any ideology, movement, programme, tendency, etc, that may be characterized as right-wing, chauvinist, authoritarian, etc
prejudice in relation to the subject specifiedbody fascism

Word Origin for fascism

C20: from Italian fascismo, from fascio political group, from Latin fascis bundle; see fasces

British Dictionary definitions for fascism (2 of 2)

/ (ˈfæʃɪzəm) /

the political movement, doctrine, system, or regime of Benito Mussolini in Italy, which encouraged militarism and nationalism, organizing the country along hierarchical authoritarian lines
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 fascism

[ (fash-iz-uhm) ]

A system of government that flourished in Europe from the 1920s to the end of World War II. Germany under Adolf Hitler, Italy under Mussolini, and Spain under Franco were all fascist states. As a rule, fascist governments are dominated by a dictator, who usually possesses a magnetic personality, wears a showy uniform, and rallies his followers by mass parades; appeals to strident nationalism; and promotes suspicion or hatred of both foreigners and “impure” people within his own nation, such as the Jews (see also Jews) in Germany. Although both communism and fascism are forms of totalitarianism, fascism does not demand state ownership of the means of production, nor is fascism committed to the achievement of economic equality. In theory, communism opposes the identification of government with a single charismatic leader (the “cult of personality”), which is the cornerstone of fascism. Whereas communists are considered left-wing, fascists are usually described as right-wing.

notes for fascism

Today, the term fascist is used loosely to refer to military dictatorships, as well as governments or individuals that profess racism and that act in an arbitrary, high-handed manner.
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.