9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[nahy-uh-liz-uh m, nee-] /ˈnaɪ əˌlɪz əm, ˈni-/
total rejection of established laws and institutions.
anarchy, terrorism, or other revolutionary activity.
total and absolute destructiveness, especially toward the world at large and including oneself:
the power-mad nihilism that marked Hitler's last years.
  1. an extreme form of skepticism: the denial of all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth.
  2. nothingness or nonexistence.
(sometimes initial capital letter) the principles of a Russian revolutionary group, active in the latter half of the 19th century, holding that existing social and political institutions must be destroyed in order to clear the way for a new state of society and employing extreme measures, including terrorism and assassination.
annihilation of the self, or the individual consciousness, especially as an aspect of mystical experience.
Origin of nihilism
1810-20; < Latin nihil nothing (variant of nihilum; see nil) + -ism
Related forms
nihilist, noun, adjective
nihilistic, adjective
antinihilism, noun
antinihilist, noun, adjective
nonnihilism, noun
nonnihilist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for nihilism
  • If a man cannot distinguish between idealism and nihilism, he should not be the president of a great university.
  • I'm really wanting to focus on an understanding of nihilism here.
  • There is always a danger of succumbing to nihilism in this industry.
  • If his nihilism is not terribly sophisticated either, it is at least dramatic.
  • It's this air of surreal nihilism that puts some iron in their bones.
  • He is reaching beyond anger and humiliation, out to a despair that deepens into nihilism.
  • To hear these young people talk is to listen in on budding nihilism and a loss of hope.
  • One of the paradoxes of punk is that a movement based on nihilism led to such a wealth of creativity.
  • Culturally it is riven with narcissism and nihilism and completely dependent on consumerism to keep the "natives" happy.
  • The story is far from being a journey toward nihilism.
British Dictionary definitions for nihilism


a complete denial of all established authority and institutions
(philosophy) an extreme form of scepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication, etc
a revolutionary doctrine of destruction for its own sake
the practice or promulgation of terrorism
Derived Forms
nihilist, noun, adjective
nihilistic, adjective
Word Origin
C19: from Latin nihil nothing + -ism, on the model of German Nihilismus


(in tsarist Russia) any of several revolutionary doctrines that upheld terrorism
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
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Word Origin and History for nihilism

1817, "the doctrine of negation" (in reference to religion or morals), from German Nihilismus, from Latin nihil "nothing at all" (see nil), coined by German philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743-1819). In philosophy, an extreme form of skepticism (1836). The political sense was first used by German journalist Joseph von Görres (1776-1848). Turgenev used the Russian form of the word (nigilizm) in "Fathers and Children" (1862) and claimed to have invented it. With a capital N-, it refers to the Russian revolutionary anarchism of the period 1860-1917, supposedly so called because "nothing" that then existed found favor in their eyes.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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nihilism in Medicine

nihilism ni·hil·ism (nī'ə-lĭz'əm, nē'-)

  1. The belief that destruction of existing political or social institutions is necessary for future improvement.

  2. A delusion, experienced in some mental disorders, that the world or one's mind, body, or self does not exist.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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nihilism in Culture
nihilism [(neye-uh-liz-uhm, nee-uh-liz-uhm)]

An approach to philosophy that holds that human life is meaningless and that all religions, laws, moral codes, and political systems are thoroughly empty and false. The term is from the Latin nihil, meaning “nothing.”

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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