[ sen-tuh-men-tl-iz-uhm ]
/ ˌsɛn təˈmɛn tlˌɪz əm /
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sentimental tendency or character; predominance of sentiment over reason.
weak emotionalism; excessive indulgence in sentiment.
a display of sentimentality.
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Origin of sentimentalism

First recorded in 1810–20; sentimental + -ism

OTHER WORDS FROM sentimentalism

o·ver·sen·ti·men·tal·ism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does sentimentalism mean?

Sentimentalism is the state or quality of being sentimental—expressing, appealing to, or being moved by sensitive or tender emotions, such as love, nostalgia, or pity.

The word sentimentality can be used to mean the same thing.

Sentimentalism, sentimentality, and sentimental are based on the sense of the word sentiment that refers to sensitive or tender emotions, sensitivity to such emotions, or appeal to such emotions.

Such terms are especially used to imply that these emotions are exaggerated or overindulged. Sometimes, they imply that these emotions get in the way of thinking logically or being realistic.

In this way, sentimentalism often means the tendency of being overly sentimental.

People are sometimes criticized for sentimentalism, as in Your sentimentalism makes you see things through rose-colored glasses, instead of seeing what they’re really like.  

These kinds of criticisms are especially common in the context of art. For example, a book or film may be criticized for its sentimentalism in dealing with a historical event. This implies that it portrays the event in an idealized, simplistic, or nostalgic way instead of depicting it accurately and dealing with what really happened.

Such works might also be described as melodramatic. When they’re tearfully or weakly emotional, they might be described as maudlin, mawkish, sappy, or weepy. Hallmark holiday movies are known for their sentimentalism.

Someone who’s prone to sentimentalism can be called a sentimentalist.

Example: His sentimentalism is what makes him keep all of his childhood toys.

Where does sentimentalism come from?

The first records of the word sentimentalism come from around 1820. The word sentimental is first recorded in the mid-1700s. The word sentiment is first recorded in the 1300s and comes from the Latin verb sentī(re), meaning “to feel.” The suffix -ism indicates a practice, principle, or doctrine and is used to form abstract nouns.

Books and movies based on sentimentalism are intended to make you feel all the feels—to have an emotional impact, especially one that makes you cry. Sometimes, though, this kind of sentimentalism comes at the expense of a realistic story or believable characters. When it’s done simply for emotional effect like this, it’s often called cheap sentimentalism or cheap sentimentality.

Sentimentality and sentimentalism can mean the same thing, but sentimentalism is more often used in a negative way.

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What are some other forms related to sentimentalism?

What are some synonyms for sentimentalism?

What are some words that share a root or word element with sentimentalism

What are some words that often get used in discussing sentimentalism?

How is sentimentalism used in real life?

Sentimentalism often refers to a quality of people and works of art. In the context of art, it’s often used in criticisms of works that are considered overly sentimental.


Try using sentimentalism!

Which of the following words would NOT be used to describe something considered an example of sentimentalism?

A. realistic
B. maudlin
C. cloying
D. sappy

How to use sentimentalism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for sentimentalism

/ (ˌsɛntɪˈmɛntəˌlɪzəm) /

the state or quality of being sentimental
an act, statement, etc, that is sentimental

Derived forms of sentimentalism

sentimentalist, noun
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