[ ri-duhk-shuh-niz-uh m ]
/ rɪˈdʌk ʃəˌnɪz əm /


the theory that every complex phenomenon, especially in biology or psychology, can be explained by analyzing the simplest, most basic physical mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon.
the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it.

Nearby words

  1. reduction formula,
  2. reduction mammaplasty,
  3. reduction of chromosomes,
  4. reduction potential,
  5. reduction ratio,
  6. reductionist,
  7. reductions,
  8. reductive,
  9. reductively,
  10. reductivism

Origin of reductionism

First recorded in 1940–45; reduction + -ism

Related formsre·duc·tion·ist, noun, adjectivere·duc·tion·is·tic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for reductionism


/ (rɪˈdʌkʃəˌnɪzəm) /


the analysis of complex things, data, etc, into less complex constituents
often derogatory any theory or method that holds that a complex idea, system, etc, can be completely understood in terms of its simpler parts or components
Derived Formsreductionist, noun, adjectivereductionistic, adjective

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 reductionism



1948, in philosophy, from reduction in specialized sense in philosophy (1914) + -ism. Related: Reductionist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper