[sen-sey-shuh-nl-iz-uh m]


subject matter, language, or style producing or designed to produce startling or thrilling impressions or to excite and please vulgar taste.
the use of or interest in this subject matter, language, or style: The cheap tabloids relied on sensationalism to increase their circulation.
  1. the doctrine that the good is to be judged only by the gratification of the senses.
  2. the doctrine that all ideas are derived from and are essentially reducible to sensations.
Psychology. sensationism.

Origin of sensationalism

First recorded in 1840–50; sensational + -ism
Related formssen·sa·tion·al·ist, noun, adjectivesen·sa·tion·al·is·tic, adjectivenon·sen·sa·tion·al·is·tic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sensationalism

Contemporary Examples of sensationalism

Historical Examples of sensationalism

  • The publishers objected to the title because they saw in it a touch of sensationalism.

  • Here, then, is a statement of facts, divested of all emotion or sensationalism.

    Things as They Are

    Amy Wilson-Carmichael

  • Locke cannot be truly regarded as the author of sensationalism any more than of idealism.



  • It must aim at getting a majority on its side, and this it can only do by sensationalism.

    The New Society

    Walther Rathenau

  • There is, indeed, another side to their sensationalism which should be noticed.

    Change in the Village

    (AKA George Bourne) George Sturt

British Dictionary definitions for sensationalism



the use of sensational language, etc, to arouse an intense emotional response
such sensational matter itself
Also called: sensualism philosophy
  1. the doctrine that knowledge cannot go beyond the analysis of experience
  2. ethicsthe doctrine that the ability to gratify the senses is the only criterion of goodness
psychol the theory that all experience and mental life may be explained in terms of sensations and remembered images
aesthetics the theory of the beauty of sensuality in the arts
Also called (for senses 3, 4): sensationism
Derived Formssensationalist, noun, adjectivesensationalistic, 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 sensationalism

1846 in philosophy, "theory that sensation is the only source of knowledge;" 1865, of journalism that aims to excite the feelings, from sensational + -ism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper