[mod-er-niz-uh m]
See more synonyms for modernism on
  1. modern character, tendencies, or values; adherence to or sympathy with what is modern.
  2. a modern usage or characteristic.
  3. (initial capital letter) Theology.
    1. the movement in Roman Catholic thought that sought to interpret the teachings of the Church in the light of philosophic and scientific conceptions prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: condemned by Pope Pius X in 1907.
    2. the liberal theological tendency in Protestantism in the 20th century.
  4. (sometimes initial capital letter) a deliberate philosophical and practical estrangement or divergence from the past in the arts and literature occurring especially in the course of the 20th century and taking form in any of various innovative movements and styles.

Origin of modernism

First recorded in 1730–40; modern + -ism
Related formsan·ti·mod·ern·ism, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for modernism

Contemporary Examples of modernism

Historical Examples of modernism

  • We know him well: Xenophon's modernism comes out in these things.



  • But now all is crumbling before the poisonous onslaught of modernism.

    Sugar Plum

    Reginald Bretnor

  • Too angry to deny the convenient charge of "modernism," he sought the street.

    The Higher Court

    Mary Stewart Daggett

  • He bowed his head, revolving in his mind the definite charge of "modernism."

    The Higher Court

    Mary Stewart Daggett

  • Consequently the charge of "modernism" fell like a bolt from a clear sky.

    The Higher Court

    Mary Stewart Daggett

British Dictionary definitions for modernism


  1. modern tendencies, characteristics, thoughts, etc, or the support of these
  2. something typical of contemporary life or thought
  3. a 20th-century divergence in the arts from previous traditions, esp in architectureSee International Style
  4. (capital) RC Church the movement at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries that sought to adapt doctrine to the supposed requirements of modern thought
Derived Formsmodernist, noun, adjectivemodernistic, adjectivemodernistically, 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 modernism

1737, "deviation from the ancient and classical manner" [Johnson, who calls it "a word invented by Swift"], from modern + -ism. From 1830 as "modern ways and styles." Used in theology since 1901. As a movement in the arts (away from classical or traditional modes), from 1929.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper