[in-duh-vij-oo-uh-liz-uh m]


a social theory advocating the liberty, rights, or independent action of the individual.
the principle or habit of or belief in independent thought or action.
the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests; egoism.
individual character; individuality.
an individual peculiarity.
  1. the doctrine that only individual things are real.
  2. the doctrine or belief that all actions are determined by, or at least take place for, the benefit of the individual, not of society as a whole.

Origin of individualism

First recorded in 1825–35; individual + -ism
Related formso·ver·in·di·vid·u·al·ism, nounsu·per·in·di·vid·u·al·ism, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for individualism

Contemporary Examples of individualism

Historical Examples of individualism

  • No catalogue of American qualities and defects can exclude the trait of individualism.

  • No sovereign or minister, no government, can win the favor of Prussian individualism.

    Blood and Iron

    John Hubert Greusel

  • As has been indicated, the frontier is productive of individualism.

    The Frontier in American History

    Frederick Jackson Turner

  • A most striking feature of the northern migration was its individualism.

  • This individualism has had the freest play, and we are not likely to lose all that it has given us.

British Dictionary definitions for individualism



the action or principle of asserting one's independence and individuality; egoism
an individual quirk or peculiarity
another word for laissez faire (def. 1)
philosophy the doctrine that only individual things exist and that therefore classes or properties have no realityCompare Platonism, realism (def. 5)
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 individualism

"self-centered feeling," 1827, from individual + -ism. As a social philosophy (opposed to communism and socialism) first attested 1851 in writings of J.S. Mill.

A majority can never replace the individual. ... Just as a hundred fools do not make one wise man, a heroic decision is not likely to come from a hundred cowards. [Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf," 1933]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

individualism in Culture


A view that stresses the importance and worth of each person. In economics, it is the doctrine that individuals best serve the public interest by pursuing their own self-interest. For example, the businessman who expands his company to increase his profits also creates jobs for many people and thereby serves the public interest. (See laissez-faire.)

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.