[sen-sey-shuh-nl-iz-uh m]
  1. subject matter, language, or style producing or designed to produce startling or thrilling impressions or to excite and please vulgar taste.
  2. the use of or interest in this subject matter, language, or style: The cheap tabloids relied on sensationalism to increase their circulation.
  3. Philosophy.
    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.
  4. 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. 2018

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Contemporary Examples of sensationalist

Historical Examples of sensationalist

British Dictionary definitions for sensationalist


  1. the use of sensational language, etc, to arouse an intense emotional response
  2. such sensational matter itself
  3. 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
  4. psychol the theory that all experience and mental life may be explained in terms of sensations and remembered images
  5. 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 sensationalist

1846 in philosophy; 1868 of writers; from sensational + -ist. Related: Sensationalistic.



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