[mon-iz-uh m, moh-niz-uh m]
  1. Philosophy.
    1. (in metaphysics) any of various theories holding that there is only one basic substance or principle as the ground of reality, or that reality consists of a single element.Compare dualism(def 2), pluralism(def 1a).
    2. (in epistemology) a theory that the object and datum of cognition are identical.Compare pluralism(def 1b).
  2. the reduction of all processes, structures, concepts, etc., to a single governing principle; the theoretical explanation of everything in terms of one principle.
  3. the conception that there is one causal factor in history; the notion of a single element as primary determinant of behavior, social action, or institutional relations.

Origin of monism

From the German word Monismus, dating back to 1860–65. See mon-, -ism
Related formsmon·ist, nounmo·nis·tic [muh-nis-tik, moh-] /məˈnɪs tɪk, moʊ-/, mo·nis·ti·cal, adjectivemo·nis·ti·cal·ly, adverbnon·mon·ist, nounnon·mo·nis·tic, adjectivenon·mo·nis·ti·cal·ly, adverbun·mo·nis·tic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for monist

Historical Examples of monist

British Dictionary definitions for monist


  1. philosophy the doctrine that the person consists of only a single substance, or that there is no crucial difference between mental and physical events or propertiesCompare dualism (def. 2) See also materialism (def. 2), idealism (def. 3)
  2. philosophy the doctrine that reality consists of an unchanging whole in which change is mere illusionCompare pluralism (def. 5)
  3. the epistemological theory that the object and datum of consciousness are identical
  4. the attempt to explain anything in terms of one principle only
Derived Formsmonist, noun, adjectivemonistic, adjectivemonistically, adverb

Word Origin for monism

C19: from Greek monos single + -ism
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 monist

1836, from Greek monos "single" (see mono-) + -ist. Also see monism. Related: Monistic.



"the philosophical doctrine that there is only one principle," 1862, from Modern Latin monismus, from Greek monos "alone" (see mono-). First used in German by German philosopher Baron Christian von Wolff (1679-1754).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

monist in Culture


[(moh-niz-uhm, mon-iz-uhm)]

A position in metaphysics that sees only one kind of principle whereas dualism sees two. On the question of whether people's minds are distinct from their bodies, for example, a monist would hold either that mental conditions are essentially physical conditions (materialism), or that bodies depend on minds for their existence (idealism).

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.