[ pop-yuh-liz-uhm ]

  1. any of various, often antiestablishment or anti-intellectual political movements or philosophies that offer unorthodox solutions or policies and appeal to the common person rather than according with traditional party or partisan ideologies.

  2. grass-roots democracy; working-class activism; egalitarianism.

  1. representation or extolling of the common person, the working class, the underdog, etc.: populism in the arts.

  2. (initial capital letter) the political philosophy of the People's party.

Origin of populism

An Americanism first recorded in 1890–95; from Latin popul(us) “people” (cf. people, popular ) + -ism

Other words from populism

  • an·ti-pop·u·lism, noun

Words Nearby populism

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use populism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for populism


/ (ˈpɒpjʊˌlɪzəm) /

  1. a political strategy based on a calculated appeal to the interests or prejudices of ordinary people

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 populism


The belief that greater popular participation in government and business is necessary to protect individuals from exploitation by inflexible bureaucracy and financial conglomerates. “Power to the people” is a famous populist slogan.

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.