ni·hil·ism (nīə-lĭz′əm, nē-)
1. Philosophy The doctrine that nothing actually exists or that existence or values are meaningless.
2. Relentless negativity or cynicism suggesting an absence of values or beliefs: nihilism in postwar art.
a. Political belief or action that advocates or commits violence or terrorism without discernible constructive goals.
b. also Nihilism A diffuse, revolutionary movement of mid-19th-century Russia that scorned authority and tradition and believed in reason, materialism, and radical change in society and government through terrorism and assassination.
4. Psychiatry A delusion, experienced in some mental disorders, that the world or one's mind, body, or self does not exist.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.