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[mur-kuh n-ti-liz-uh m, -tee-, -tahy-] /ˈmɜr kən tɪˌlɪz əm, -ti-, -taɪ-/
mercantile practices or spirit; commercialism.
1870-75; < French mercantilisme. See mercantile, -ism
Related forms
mercantilist, noun, adjective
mercantilistic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for mercantilist
  • Instead, it follows a mercantilist policy, keeping its trade surplus artificially high.
  • Zero-sum thinking can take over, leading to mercantilist and protectionist policies.
  • Non-currency related mercantilist protectionist practices appear to have been stepped up to offset the dollar decline.
British Dictionary definitions for mercantilist


(economics) Also called mercantile system. a theory prevalent in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries asserting that the wealth of a nation depends on its possession of precious metals and therefore that the government of a nation must maximize the foreign trade surplus, and foster national commercial interests, a merchant marine, the establishment of colonies, etc
a rare word for commercialism (sense 1)
Derived Forms
mercantilist, noun, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for mercantilist



1834, from French mercantilisme; see mercantile + -ism. Related: mercantilist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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mercantilist in Culture
mercantilism [(mur-kuhn-tee-liz-uhm, mur-kuhn-ti-liz-uhm, mur-kuhn-teye-liz-uhm)]

An economic doctrine that flourished in Europe from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Mercantilists held that a nation's wealth consisted primarily in the amount of gold and silver in its treasury. Accordingly, mercantilist governments imposed extensive restrictions on their economies to ensure a surplus of exports over imports. In the eighteenth century, mercantilism was challenged by the doctrine of laissez-faire. (See also Adam Smith.)

Note: The European quest for colonial holdings in Asia, Africa, and North and South America was partially a product of mercantile economics.
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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