[ nach-er-uh-liz-uhm, nach-ruh- ]
See synonyms for naturalism on
  1. Literature.

    • a manner or technique of treating subject matter that presents, through volume of detail, a deterministic view of human life and actions.

    • a deterministic theory of writing in which it is held that a writer should adopt an objective view toward the material written about, be free of preconceived ideas as to form and content, and represent with clinical accuracy and frankness the details of life.: Compare realism (def. 4b).

    • a representation of natural appearances or natural patterns of speech, manner, etc., in a work of fiction.

    • the depiction of the physical environment, especially landscape or the rural environment.

  2. (in a work of art) treatment of forms, colors, space, etc., as they appear or might appear in nature.: Compare idealism (def. 4), realism (def. 3a).

  1. action arising from or based on natural instincts and desires alone.

  2. Philosophy.

    • the view of the world that takes account only of natural elements and forces, excluding the supernatural or spiritual.

    • the belief that all phenomena are covered by laws of science and that all teleological explanations are therefore without value.

  3. Theology.

    • the doctrine that all religious truth is derived from a study of natural processes and not from revelation.

    • the doctrine that natural religion is sufficient for salvation.

  4. adherence or attachment to what is natural.

Origin of naturalism

First recorded in 1635–45; natural + -ism

Other words from naturalism

  • an·ti·nat·u·ral·ism, noun
  • non·nat·u·ral·ism, noun

Words Nearby naturalism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use naturalism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for naturalism


/ (ˈnætʃrəˌlɪzəm, -tʃərə-) /

    • a movement, esp in art and literature, advocating detailed realistic and factual description, esp that in 19th-century France in the writings of Zola, Flaubert, etc

    • the characteristics or effects of this movement

  1. a school of painting or sculpture characterized by the faithful imitation of appearances for their own sake

  1. the belief that all religious truth is based not on revelation but rather on the study of natural causes and processes

  2. philosophy

    • a scientific account of the world in terms of causes and natural forces that rejects all spiritual, supernatural, or teleological explanations

    • the meta-ethical thesis that moral properties are reducible to natural ones, or that ethical judgments are derivable from nonethical ones: Compare naturalistic fallacy, descriptivism

  3. action or thought caused by natural desires and instincts

  4. devotion to that which is natural

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 naturalism (1 of 2)


A movement in literature and the arts, and an approach to philosophy. Literary and artistic naturalism aims at accuracy and objectivity and cultivates realistic and even sordid portrayals of people and their environment. Philosophical naturalism, which is often identified with materialism, holds that minds, spirits, and ideas are fundamentally material.


In the visual arts, an attempt to depict the natural world as accurately and objectively as possible.

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.