[ muh-teer-ee-uh-liz-uhm ]
See synonyms for materialism on
  1. preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.

  2. the philosophical theory that regards matter and its motions as constituting the universe, and all phenomena, including those of mind, as due to material agencies.

Origin of materialism

From the New Latin word māteriālismus, dating back to 1740–50. See material, -ism

Other words from materialism

  • an·ti·ma·te·ri·al·ism, noun

Words Nearby materialism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use materialism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for materialism


/ (məˈtɪərɪəˌlɪzəm) /

  1. interest in and desire for money, possessions, etc, rather than spiritual or ethical values

  2. philosophy the monist doctrine that matter is the only reality and that the mind, the emotions, etc, are merely functions of it: Compare idealism (def. 3), dualism (def. 2) See also identity theory

  1. ethics the rejection of any religious or supernatural account of things

Derived forms of materialism

  • materialist, noun, adjective
  • materialistic, adjective
  • materialistically, adverb

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 materialism


In philosophy, the position that nothing exists except matter — things that can be measured or known through the senses. Materialists deny the existence of spirit, and they look for physical explanations for all phenomena. Thus, for example, they trace mental states to the brain or nervous system, rather than to the spirit or the soul. Marxism, because it sees human culture as the product of economic forces, is a materialist system of beliefs.

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.