[ fi-los-uh-fee ]
/ fɪˈlɒs ə fi /
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See synonyms for: philosophy / philosophies on Thesaurus.com

noun, plural phi·los·o·phies.
the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.
any of the three branches, namely natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysical philosophy, that are accepted as composing this study.
a particular system of thought based on such study or investigation: the philosophy of Spinoza.
the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, especially with a view to improving or reconstituting them: the philosophy of science.
a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs.
an attitude of rationality, patience, composure, and calm in the presence of troubles or annoyances.
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Origin of philosophy

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English philosophie, from Latin philosophia, from Greek philosophía; see philo-, -sophy


an·ti·phi·los·o·phy, adjective, noun, plural an·ti·phi·los·o·phies.non·phi·los·o·phy, noun, plural non·phi·los·o·phies.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does philosophy mean?

Philosophy is a field of science that investigates reality and human existence, as in I am currently studying philosophy in college.

The word philosophy is also used to mean a specific doctrine based on such investigation, as in I wrote my term paper on the philosophy of Plato.

And philosophy is used more generally to mean a set of beliefs or an outlook, as in My philosophy on life is to be kind to everyone.

Philosophy is a complex, abstract field of science. It often analyzes difficult and ultimately unanswerable topics, such as the meaning of life, the morals and ethics of humanity, and what it means to be human. Philosophy is divided into the three branches of natural philosophy (nature and the natural world), moral philosophy (morals and ethics), and metaphysical philosophy (the nature of existence and origins of the universe).

In a related sense, the word philosophy is used to refer to the specific doctrines or schools of thought of a person who studies philosophy, such as Plato and Socrates, two famous ancient Greek philosophers.

More generally, the word philosophy means any set of beliefs or values. It could be a philosophy on how to organize societies, as with political philosophy. Or it could be your personal outlook or viewpoint.

Example: Jaime did some research on feminist philosophy to better understand feminism.

Where does philosophy come from?

The first records of the word philosophy come from around 1250. It ultimately comes from the Greek philosophos, meaning “lover of wisdom.”

Humans have long wondered about the meaning of life and the nature of our universe. We still study many philosophies of the ancient Greeks, whom we think of as the creators of philosophy. However, some academics now think the ancient Egyptians also wondered about what awaited them after death and what their place was in the world. It is sometimes difficult to say where philosophy ends and religion begins because the two often overlap and attempt to answer the same questions.

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What are some other forms related to philosophy?

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How is philosophy used in real life?

Philosophy is a common word that most often means the particular scientific discipline or a set of beliefs.

Try using philosophy!

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If you are studying the philosophy of Aristotle, you are studying his ideas and doctrine.

How to use philosophy in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for philosophy

/ (fɪˈlɒsəfɪ) /

noun plural -phies

Word Origin for philosophy

C13: from Old French filosofie, from Latin philosophia, from Greek, from philosophos lover of wisdom
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 philosophy


A study that attempts to discover the fundamental principles of the sciences, the arts, and the world that the sciences and arts deal with; the word philosophy is from the Greek for “love of wisdom.” Philosophy has many branches that explore principles of specific areas, such as knowledge (epistemology), reasoning (logic), being in general (metaphysics), beauty (aesthetics), and human conduct (ethics).

Different approaches to philosophy are also called philosophies. (See also epicureanism, existentialism, idealism, materialism, nihilism, pragmatism, stoicism, and utilitarianism.)

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.