[hi-stawr-uh-siz-uh m, -stor-]
  1. a theory that history is determined by immutable laws and not by human agency.
  2. a theory that all cultural phenomena are historically determined and that historians must study each period without imposing any personal or absolute value system.
  3. a profound or excessive respect for historical institutions, as laws or traditions.
  4. a search for laws of historical evolution that would explain and predict historical phenomena.

Origin of historicism

1890–95; historic + -ism; compare German Historismus
Related formshis·tor·i·cist, noun, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for historicist


  1. the belief that natural laws govern historical events which in turn determine social and cultural phenomena
  2. the doctrine that each period of history has its own beliefs and values inapplicable to any other, so that nothing can be understood independently of its historical context
  3. the conduct of any enquiry in accordance with these views
  4. excessive emphasis on history, historicism, past styles, etc
Derived Formshistoricist, 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 historicist



1895, translating German historismus, from historic + -ism. Given various senses 20c. in theology, philosophy, architecture, etc.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper