[yoo-til-i-tair-ee-uh-niz-uh m]


the ethical doctrine that virtue is based on utility, and that conduct should be directed toward promoting the greatest happiness of the greatest number of persons.

Origin of utilitarianism

First recorded in 1820–30; utilitarian + -ism
Related formsan·ti·u·til·i·tar·i·an·ism, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for utilitarianism

Contemporary Examples of utilitarianism

  • But here's what utilitarianism, according to Williams, leaves out of the picture: individual agency.

    The Daily Beast logo
    A Sophistic Moral Case For War

    Ali Gharib

    October 27, 2012

Historical Examples of utilitarianism

British Dictionary definitions for utilitarianism


noun ethics

the doctrine that the morally correct course of action consists in the greatest good for the greatest number, that is, in maximizing the total benefit resulting, without regard to the distribution of benefits and burdens
the theory that the criterion of virtue is utility
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 utilitarianism

1827, from utilitarian + -ism.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

utilitarianism in Culture


A system of ethics according to which the rightness or wrongness of an action should be judged by its consequences. The goal of utilitarian ethics is to promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher, was the founder of utilitarianism; John Stuart Mill was its best-known defender.

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.