[muh-kahr-thee-iz-uh m]


the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, especially of pro-Communist activity, in many instances unsupported by proof or based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.
the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.

Origin of McCarthyism

1950, Americanism; after J. R. McCarthy; see -ism
Related formsMc·Car·thy·ite, noun, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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Contemporary Examples of mccarthyism

British Dictionary definitions for mccarthyism


noun mainly US

the practice of making unsubstantiated accusations of disloyalty or Communist leanings
the use of unsupported accusations for any purpose
Derived FormsMcCarthyite, noun, adjective

Word Origin for McCarthyism

C20: after Joseph McCarthy
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 mccarthyism


1950, with -ism + name of U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (1908-1957), leader of U.S. anti-Communist agitation. The term is said to have been coined by "Washington Post" political cartoonist Herbert Block ("Herblock"). The surname is from Irish Mac Carthaigh "son of Carthach" (Welsh Caradawc), an ancient Celtic name, also known in its Latinized form, Caractacus (last of the British leaders to resist Rome, captured 51 C.E.)

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

mccarthyism in Culture


The extreme opposition to communism shown by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and his supporters in the 1940s and 1950s.


McCarthyism has become a general term for the hysterical investigation of a government's opponents or the publicizing of accusations against these opponents without sufficient evidence to support the charges.
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.