[muh-teer-ee-uh-liz-uh m]


preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.
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
Related formsan·ti·ma·te·ri·al·ism, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for materialism

utilitarianism, pragmatism, heterodoxy

Examples from the Web for materialism

Contemporary Examples of materialism

Historical Examples of materialism

  • He might have escaped this materialism through the church, but to him it offered no inducements.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • There will soon be no babies for you to instruct either in materialism or socialism.

    Mountain Meditations

    L. Lind-af-Hageby

  • Liberate their conscience from the materialism by which it is weighed down.

    Italy, the Magic Land

    Lilian Whiting

  • Razumov envied the materialism of the thief and the passion of the incorrigible lover.

    Under Western Eyes

    Joseph Conrad

  • On the other hand, it is of the essence of Materialism to deny that the Will is an agent.

    Mind and Motion and Monism

    George John Romanes

British Dictionary definitions for materialism



interest in and desire for money, possessions, etc, rather than spiritual or ethical values
philosophy the monist doctrine that matter is the only reality and that the mind, the emotions, etc, are merely functions of itCompare idealism (def. 3), dualism (def. 2) See also identity theory
ethics the rejection of any religious or supernatural account of things
Derived Formsmaterialist, noun, adjectivematerialistic, adjectivematerialistically, 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

Word Origin and History for materialism

1748, "philosophy that nothing exists except matter" (from French matérialisme); 1851 as "a way of life based entirely on consumer goods." From material + ism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

materialism in Culture


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.