[ hyoo-muh-nist or, often, yoo- ]

  1. a person having a strong interest in or concern for human welfare, values, and dignity.

  2. a person devoted to or versed in the humanities.

  1. a student of human nature or affairs.

  2. a classical scholar.

  3. (sometimes initial capital letter) any one of the scholars of the Renaissance who pursued and disseminated the study and understanding of the cultures of ancient Rome and Greece, and emphasized secular, individualistic, and critical thought.

  4. (sometimes initial capital letter) a person who follows a form of philosophical or scientific humanism.

adjectiveAlso hu·man·is·tic [hyoo-muh-nis-tik, or, often, yoo‐] /ˌhyu məˈnɪs tɪk, or, often, ˌyu‐/
  1. of or relating to human affairs, nature, welfare, or values: our humanist principles; a humanist approach to social reform.

  2. (sometimes initial capital letter) of or relating to the humanities or classical scholarship, especially that of the Renaissance humanists: humanist studies; the Humanist ideology of Petrarch.

  1. of or relating to philosophical or scientific humanism: a humanist philosophy that clashed with his parents’ religious beliefs.

Origin of humanist

First recorded in 1585–95; from Middle French, French humaniste “classics scholar, classicist”; equivalent to human + -ist

Other words from humanist

  • hu·man·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
  • an·ti·hu·man·ist, noun, adjective
  • an·ti·hu·man·is·tic, adjective
  • non·hu·ma·nist, noun
  • non·hu·man·is·tic, adjective
  • pseu·do·hu·man·is·tic, adjective
  • qua·si-hu·man·is·tic, adjective
  • sem·i·hu·man·is·tic, adjective
  • un·hu·man·is·tic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use humanist in a sentence

  • It is worth noticing that not one of these young men went to Italy for his humanistic education.

    The Age of Erasmus | P. S. Allen
  • The idealism of the eighteenth century was not reformative and humanistic, but revolutionary and humanitarian.

  • Between applied science and science as a cultural discipline—that is, science as a humanistic study—the line is hard to draw.

    The Behavior of Crowds | Everett Dean Martin
  • Humanistic writing is full of the exulting sense of this emancipation.

    Preaching and Paganism | Albert Parker Fitch
  • Hence the pride which is an essential quality of the humanistic attitude.

    Preaching and Paganism | Albert Parker Fitch

Cultural definitions for humanist


In the Renaissance, a scholar who studied the languages and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome; today, a scholar of the humanities. The term secular humanist is applied to someone who concentrates on human activities and possibilities, usually downplaying or denying the importance of God and a life after death.

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.