• synonyms


[mur-kuh n-ti-liz-uh m, -tee-, -tahy-]
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  1. mercantile practices or spirit; commercialism.
  2. mercantile system.
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Origin of mercantilism

From the French word mercantilisme, dating back to 1870–75. See mercantile, -ism
Related formsmer·can·til·ist, noun, adjectivemer·can·til·is·tic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for mercantilism


  1. Also called: mercantile system economics a theory prevalent in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries asserting that the wealth of a nation depends on its possession of precious metals and therefore that the government of a nation must maximize the foreign trade surplus, and foster national commercial interests, a merchant marine, the establishment of colonies, etc
  2. a rare word for commercialism (def. 1)
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Derived Formsmercantilist, 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

Word Origin and History for mercantilism


1834, from French mercantilisme; see mercantile + -ism. Related: mercantilist.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

mercantilism in Culture


[(mur-kuhn-tee-liz-uhm, mur-kuhn-ti-liz-uhm, mur-kuhn-teye-liz-uhm)]

An economic doctrine that flourished in Europe from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Mercantilists held that a nation's wealth consisted primarily in the amount of gold and silver in its treasury. Accordingly, mercantilist governments imposed extensive restrictions on their economies to ensure a surplus of exports over imports. In the eighteenth century, mercantilism was challenged by the doctrine of laissez-faire. (See also Adam Smith.)

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The European quest for colonial holdings in Asia, Africa, and North and South America was partially a product of mercantile economics.
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.