[ soh-shuh-list ]
/ ˈsoʊ ʃə lɪst /
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See synonyms for: socialist / socialists on Thesaurus.com

an advocate or supporter of socialism.
(initial capital letter) a member of the U.S. Socialist party.


How To Use The Terms "Socialism" vs. "Communism"

Socialism and Communism are two words that fall under the category of: learned it a while ago, probably should know it, but actually don't because these are confusing are hard. So what do these terms mean?

Do you know the difference between everyday US and UK terminology? Test yourself with this quiz on words that differ across the Atlantic.
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In the UK, COTTON CANDY is more commonly known as…

Origin of socialist

First recorded in 1825–35; social + -ist


non·so·cial·ist, noun, adjectivepre·so·cial·ist, nounsem·i·so·cial·ist, noun


communist, fascist, Marxist, socialist
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does socialist mean?

A socialist is someone who practices or supports socialism, which is an ideology or system based on the collective, public ownership and control of the resources used to make and distribute goods or provide services. This involves ownership of such things not by private individuals but by the public (the community as a whole), often in the form of a centralized government.

The things needed to make goods or offer services—the raw materials, tools, factories, and labor—are known as the means of production. Under socialism, the means of production are owned collectively, rather than by private enterprises.

The word socialist can also be used as an adjective to describe things involving socialism or that operate under socialism, such as countries, economies, or programs.

Socialism is both a social and an economic theory, with many varying interpretations as to what it truly entails. In general, socialism values people working together to meet individuals’ needs. It’s based on the belief that everyone who helps create goods or services should have a share in them. To achieve that, socialism calls for the government to own the raw materials used to make goods, such as wood and metals, and everything you need to make things out of them, including machinery and factories. Some versions of the ideology are based on the belief that the government should also set all purchase prices and workers’ wages to ensure that everyone’s wealth stays equal. In this version of socialism, doctors, bakers, clerks, teachers, and accountants would all be paid the same.

Many socialists think that essential services—such as healthcare, education, and even food—should be provided to the citizens by the government. The idea is that since community members worked together to produce those goods and services, everyone should have equal access to them.

There are many common misconceptions related to socialism. One is that a nation cannot be both socialist and democratic at the same time, yet many socialists agree with the idea of democracy.

Another common misconception is that there is no private property in a socialist society. But many people who consider themselves socialists are concerned only with property that has to do with production. In a society based on socialism, you could theoretically still have iPhones, jeans, and cars. The difference would be that the government would own everything required to make them. Abolishing private property is actually a part of communism, an ideology that is often confused with socialism. In Marxist theory, socialism is sometimes considered a middle stage in the transition from capitalism to communism.

Where does socialist come from?

The first records of the word socialist come from the 1800s. It is made from the word social, meaning “relating to life, welfare, and relations of humans in a community,” and the suffix -ist, which indicates a person who practices or adheres to a theory, doctrine, or ideology (an ism).

As a political ideology, socialism is often traced back to the Industrial Revolution. Technology innovations during this time allowed business owners to become very rich while people who worked in their factories worked long hours in dangerous conditions for little pay. Socialism emerged as an alternative to this system of capitalism.

In capitalist systems, most things are privately owned, prices and wages are determined by a free market economy, and goods and services are available only to those who can afford them. Capitalism often leads to a wealthy upper class and a poorer lower class. In contrast, an ideal socialist system aims for no economic classes.

Today, there is no completely socialist country or government. Even countries like Sweden that are often labeled as socialist have capitalist economies based on free markets and competition. China is a communist, one-party state that still has many privately owned corporations and businesses. Even strongly capitalistic countries such as the United States still have some very popular socialist programs, such as Social Security.

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What are some other forms related to socialist?

What are some synonyms for socialist?

  • socialistic (in some cases when socialist is used as an adjective)

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

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

How is socialist used in real life?

The word socialist is used in the context of politics, economics, and the discussion of ideologies.



How to use socialist in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for socialist

/ (ˈsəʊʃəlɪst) /

a supporter or advocate of socialism or any party promoting socialism (socialist party)
of, characteristic of, implementing, or relating to socialism
(sometimes capital) of, characteristic of, or relating to socialists or a socialist party
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