[ muh-kahr-thee-iz-uhm ]

  1. 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.

  2. 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

Other words from McCarthyism

  • Mc·Car·thy·ite, noun, adjective

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

How to use McCarthyism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for McCarthyism


/ (məˈkɑːθɪˌɪzəm) /

nounmainly US
  1. the practice of making unsubstantiated accusations of disloyalty or Communist leanings

  2. the use of unsupported accusations for any purpose

Origin of McCarthyism

C20: after Joseph McCarthy

Derived forms of McCarthyism

  • McCarthyite, noun, adjective

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 McCarthyism


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

Notes for McCarthyism

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.