Some Political and Philosophical -ism's

Learn this list of words ending in the suffix -ism so you can better understand why John Lennon sang, ""This-ism, that-ism, ism ism ism/All we are saying is give peace a chance."

Start learning with an activity...

  • Practice

    Answer a few questions on each word. Get one wrong? We'll ask some follow-up questions. Use it to prep for your next quiz!
  • Spelling Bee

    Test your spelling acumen. See the definition, listen to the word, then try to spell it correctly. Beat your last streak, or best your overall time. Spellers of the world, untie!
  • Vocabulary Jam

    Compete head-to-head in real-time to see which team can answer the most questions correctly. Start a Jam and invite your friends and classmates to join!

Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. socialism
    a political theory advocating state ownership of industry
    Colonel Qaddafi declared that his political system of permanent revolution would sweep away capitalism and socialism.New York Times (Oct 20, 2011)
  2. communism
    a theory favoring collectivism in a classless society
    Recent polls show that instituting communism in the United States is more popular than our democratically elected congressional leaders.Washington Post (Nov 18, 2011)
  3. absolutism
    the doctrine of a being that is without restriction
    Autocracy—the whole human history proves it—by nature engenders absolutism.Desjardins, Louis-Georges
  4. altruism
    the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others
    At first, most people agreed that true altruism was a uniquely human characteristic requiring an awareness of one's actions as selfless.Scientific American (Dec 8, 2011)
  5. asceticism
    the doctrine of renunciation of worldly pleasures
    Still the good monks continued to live in rigorous asceticism; and their liberality to others often reduced them to extremities of privation.Bolanden, Conrad von
  6. consumerism
    the theory that increasing use of goods is beneficial
    A glittering shopping mall with an indoor ice skating rink stands as a totem of American-style consumerism.New York Times (Jan 3, 2012)
  7. despotism
    a form of government in which the ruler is unconstrained
    Henceforward free government all over the world lay crushed beneath the military despotism of Rome.Various
  8. egoism
    the theory that self-interest is the basis of morality
    Consequently, as is the way of human nature, her egoism is exasperated, and becomes more firmly concentrated upon her own welfare.Boyd, Ernest Augustus
  9. empiricism
    the doctrine that knowledge derives from experience
    Darwin is the finest fruit of English empiricism.
  10. fatalism
    a doctrine that all events are predetermined in advance
    She never questioned but that the fault lay entirely in herself, and a sort of fatalism made her accept it all with apathetic matter-of-factness.Delafield, E. M.
  11. feminism
    a doctrine that advocates equal rights for women
    In the United States, as elsewhere, feminism could be characterized as the most successful social movement of the 20th century.New York Times (Dec 19, 2011)
  12. hedonism
    an ethical system that values the pursuit of pleasure
    In its heyday, Atlantic City was a haven of hedonism, its mystique etched onto the Monopoly board.
  13. humanism
    doctrine promoting the welfare of mankind
    The Reformation took up the educational work of humanism, and carried it forward.Seeley, Levi
  14. idealism
    the philosophical theory that thoughts are the only reality
    Once more, the poet’s mysticism is tempered by a tinge of idealism.Clarke, Helen Archibald
  15. individualism
    doctrine that government should not interfere in commerce
    Samuel Johnson should be known as the apostle of individualism.Frothingham, Octavius Brooks
  16. isolationism
    a policy of nonparticipation in international relations
    When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the debate ended and isolationism was essentially dead.New York Times (Oct 4, 2010)
  17. liberalism
    a political orientation favoring social progress by reform
    But San Francisco’s national reputation for liberalism and libertinism really got going after Prohibition ended in 1933.Slate (Jan 19, 2012)
  18. materialism
    the philosophical theory that matter is the only reality
    " Materialism will be advanced as the only sound basis of rational thought and practice."Holyoake, George Jacob
  19. nationalism
    the doctrine that your country's interests are superior
    Despite a reputation for deep-rooted nationalism, Turkey has adopted liberal economic policies under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party government over the past decade.Reuters (Sep 28, 2011)
  20. nihilism
    a doctrine that advocates destruction of the social system
    In her despair she succumbed to a sort of nihilism that made her ask: “What is the reason of anything?...Couperus, Louis
  21. pragmatism
    the doctrine that practical consequences determine value
    One homegrown tradition from the United States is pragmatism, which is focused on what works.New York Times (Aug 6, 2011)
  22. rationalism
    the doctrine that reason is the basis for regulating conduct
    There have been, since the waters of thought began to flow, two great streams running side by side,— Rationalism and Mysticism.Parsons, Frank
  23. totalitarianism
    the principle of unrestricted power in government
    He denounced totalitarianism in his native land while promoting human rights.
  24. capitalism
    an economic system based on private ownership of assets
    Capitalism’s focus on individualism and free contractual arrangements replaced a system in which familial, communal and religious bonds had greater influence over long-term relationships.Salon (Aug 3, 2012)
Created on February 8, 2012 (updated August 4, 2014)

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.