existentialism

[eg-zi-sten-shuh-liz-uhm, ek-si-]
noun Philosophy.
a philosophical attitude associated especially with Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre, and opposed to rationalism and empiricism, that stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.

Origin:
1940–45; < German Existentialismus (1919); see existential, -ism

existentialist, adjective, noun
existentialistic, adjective
existentialistically, adverb
nonexistentialism, noun
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World English Dictionary
existentialism (ˌɛɡzɪˈstɛnʃəˌlɪzəm)
 
n
a modern philosophical movement stressing the importance of personal experience and responsibility and the demands that they make on the individual, who is seen as a free agent in a deterministic and seemingly meaningless universe
 
exis'tentialist
 
adj, —n

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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

existentialism
1941, from Ger. Existentialismus (1919), ultimately from Dan. writer Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who wrote (1846) of Existents-Forhold "condition of existence," existentielle Pathos, etc. (see existential), and whose name means, literally, "churchyard." Related: Existentialist.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

existentialism definition


A movement in twentieth-century literature and philosophy, with some forerunners in earlier centuries. Existentialism stresses that people are entirely free and therefore responsible for what they make of themselves. With this responsibility comes a profound anguish or dread. Søren Kierkegaard and Feodor Dostoevsky in the nineteenth century, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, and Albert Camus in the twentieth century, were existentialist writers.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
While studying at the university, he adopted an existentialist philosophy.
No one will know whether you're an existentialist, a nihilist, or some new sort
  of philosophical wonder not yet named.
Portrait of a noted twentieth-century philosopher whose work helped inspire the
  existentialist movement.
Not surprisingly, the film is drenched with existentialist philosophy, but
  overall it works best as a romantic tragedy.
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