[ rel-uh-tuh-viz-uh m ]
/ ˈrɛl ə təˌvɪz əm /

noun Philosophy.

any theory holding that criteria of judgment are relative, varying with individuals and their environments.



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Origin of relativism

First recorded in 1860–65; relative + -ism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for relativism

  • Jefferson's relativism is even more clearly marked in the last chapter, which forms the real conclusion of the book.

    Thomas Jefferson|Gilbert Chinard
  • The former view is relativism, the latter is absolutism, in the matter of truth.

    Pragmatism|D.L. Murray
  • If this one exception is granted, the whole illusory universe of relativism is overthrown.

    Outspoken Essays|William Ralph Inge
  • The inevitable consequence is that we imprison ourselves hopelessly in the affirmation of Kantian relativism.

British Dictionary definitions for relativism

/ (ˈrɛlətɪˌvɪzəm) /


any theory holding that truth or moral or aesthetic value, etc, is not universal or absolute but may differ between individuals or culturesSee also historicism

Derived forms of relativism

relativist, noun, 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

Cultural definitions for relativism


The doctrine that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, “relative” — that is, their validity depends on the circumstances in which they are applied.

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.