Definition of nihilism in English:



  • 1The rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.

    • ‘Those who rejected nihilism and stood against evil in the past lead the way.’
    • ‘Still, here we are, and it seems to me arbitrary to accept the challenges of religious pluralism and historical skepticism about Jesus while ignoring postmodern nihilism.’
    • ‘The search gave rise to a widespread commitment to relativism, to the view that there is no such unconditional ground, and with it the risk of skepticism and nihilism.’
    • ‘In Elephant we can roughly align the characters according to the idea of active and passive nihilism.’
    • ‘The inevitable result is social fragmentation and moral nihilism.’
    • ‘We must fight soggy nihilism, scepticism and cynicism.’
    • ‘His ethical response to nihilism is an active one - the creation of new values.’
    • ‘Tolkien, a devout Catholic, was a combat veteran of World War I, and acutely sensitive to the murderous nihilism of modern warfare.’
    • ‘The validation of subjectivity, leads towards scepticism, but not onto nihilism.’
    • ‘Potter was terrified that atheism led to nihilism.’
    • ‘For them, more religion is the answer to widespread nihilism in European societies.’
    • ‘And since he asserts that atheism = nihilism and deism = atheism lite, then I must really be a nihilist.’
    • ‘The cult of the absurd gives way to his later rejection of nihilism, not by any clear intellectual choice, but by the process of natural growth.’
    • ‘Or, to phrase the matter more simply and starkly, our religion is one of very comfortable nihilism.’
    • ‘He elevates their self-indulgence to a sort of post-modern nihilism.’
    • ‘Pinker argues that we need not fear nihilism or meaninglessness from the modern human sciences because they show that morality is wired into the human brain.’
    • ‘It is a bleak picture of society, but it captures that which is terribly bleak about contemporary life in urban America-its narcissism and nihilism.’
    • ‘If those in government allow themselves to be intimidated into neutrality because they harbour private peccadilloes, they will sell the pass to the prophets of moral nihilism.’
    • ‘Given the completely negative associations nihilism has for many of us, simply to have it redefined as a theological posture is worth the price of the book.’
    negativity, cynicism, pessimism
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Philosophy Extreme skepticism maintaining that nothing in the world has a real existence.
      • ‘Existentialism is just another form of nihilism in Nietzsche's sense.’
      • ‘It is urged that Kant's legacy led to the nihilism which Schopenhauer and Nietzsche in their different ways sought to overcome through their emphasis on the will.’
      • ‘Thus, from a Nietzschean perspective, nihilism is the unforeseen consequence of the Kantian critique of metaphysics.’
      • ‘The dislodging of epistemology from its old status of first philosophy loosed a wave, we saw, of epistemological nihilism.’
    2. 1.2historical The doctrine of an extreme Russian revolutionary party c.1900 which found nothing to approve of in the established social order.


Early 19th century: from Latin nihil ‘nothing’ + -ism.