The Meaning of Nihilism: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the meaning of nihilism? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on this religious ideology.

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What type of belief is nihilism, and where does this belief come from? This article covers the origins and beliefs of the nihilists.

What Does the Word Nihilism Mean?

UTM states that nihilism is the idea that many traditional ideals, morals, moral truths, and beliefs have no value and that the current social and political institutions in society are so bad that they need to be destroyed. This philosophy focuses on cosmic purposelessness, destruction, and epistemological failure. Nihilism can be pronounced using three or four syllables: ni-hil-is-m or ni-hil-ism.

There are different forms of nihilism which include epistemological nihilism, existential nihilism, political nihilism, passive nihilism, active nihilism, and medical nihilism. This concept was founded by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in the 19th century. However, at this time, nihilists were associated with political groups that advocated for assassination and terrorism in 19th-century Russia.

This doctrine gained popularity in the 20th century when people grew disillusioned with various social institutions. Famous nihilists include Ivan Turgenev, Friedrich Jacobi, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Martin Heidegger. 

The concept of nihilism fascinates many in Western cultures due to their views on religion, politics, and psychiatry. The revolutionary doctrines on the death of God, their philosophy on science, and their existentialism make some people have extreme skepticism about nihilism, absurdism, and the potential meaninglessness of life.

What Are Other Belief Systems Around the World?

Nihilism is just one of many belief systems around the world. This list of beliefs from Human Religions portrays just how many different ways people believe in a higher power. Some of these come from Christianity, some come from Judaism, and the rest might fall under what is called natural thought or other sources.


Many different belief systems take their roots in Christianity, including:

  • Santería
  • Mennonite
  • Concerned Christians
  • Branch Davidians
  • Unitarianism
  • Spiritualism
  • Salvation Army
  • Dami Xuanjiao
  • Amish
  • Unification Church
  • Order Of The Solar Temple
  • Unitas Fratrum
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Unitarian-universalism
  • Christian Apostolic Church In Zion
  • Heaven’s Gate
  • Hookers For Jesus / The Family Of God
  • Aum Shinrikyo
  • Traditional African Church
  • Rastafarian
  • Christadelphians
  • People’s Temple
  • Chen Tao


Surprisingly, two of the world’s major religions, Christianity and Islam, have their roots in Judaism! These are the religions rooted in Judaism:

  • Ebionites
  • Islam
  • Christianity

Natural Thought

Natural thought can lead to many different types of beliefs, including:

  • monotheism
  • no religion
  • pantheism
  • ancestor worship
  • dualism
  • universalism
  • polytheism
  • animism
  • Shamanism
  • atheism
  • agnosticism
  • Witchcraft
  • Mysticism
  • theism

Other Belief Systems

There are many other religions and belief systems that come from Eastern cultures, science, and other sources. Do you practice any of these beliefs?

  • Theosophy
  • Satanism
  • Divine Lightmission
  • Bahá’í Faith
  • Celtic Paganism
  • Scientology
  • Existentialists
  • Gnosticism
  • deism
  • New Age
  • Pastafarianism
  • Heathenism
  • occultism
  • Buddhism
  • Druidism
  • Zoroastrianism
  • Yezidism
  • Taoism
  • Raja Yoga
  • Shinto
  • Brahma Kumari
  • Voodoo
  • Mithraism
  • Hinduism
  • Hare Krishna
  • Thelema
  • Druze
  • Confucianism
  • Paganism
  • Wicca
  • Sikhism
  • Judaism
  • Asatrú
  • Ravidassia
  • Eckankar
  • Native American Church
  • Jainism
  • Chinese Religion
  • Humanism
  • sun worship
  • Jedi Knights
  • Zhu Shen Jiao

What Are Translations of Nihilism?

Since nihilism is a belief that can be practiced worldwide, it has many translations into other languages. Nihilism was invented in Germany and took root in Russia and other Eastern European locations during its inception. You might see one of these translations of nihilism pop up in a world philosophy class or if you are reading about nihilism in other languages:

  • Hebrew: ניהיליזם‎, אַפְסָנוּת‎ (afesanut)
  • Finnish: nihilismi‎
  • Vietnamese: chủ nghĩa hư vô‎, tư tưởng đoạn diệt‎
  • Cebuano: magtagad sa panghunahuna‎
  • Portuguese: niilismo‎ (masc.)
  • Polish: nihilizm‎ (masc.)
  • Georgian: ნიჰილიზმი‎
  • Italian: nichilismo‎ (masc.)
  • Belarusian: нігілізм‎
  • Swedish: nihilism‎
  • Indonesian: nihilisme‎
  • Welsh: nihiliaeth‎
  • French: nihilisme‎ (masc.)
  • Yiddish: ניהיליזם‎ (masc.)
  • ‎Armenian: նիհիլիզմ‎
  • Kannada: ನಿರಾಕರಣವಾದ‎
  • Czech: nihilismus‎ (masc.)
  • Icelandic: tómhyggja‎, níhílismi‎
  • Malay: nihilisme‎
  • Gujarati: શૂન્યવાદ‎ (sūnyavāda)
  • Haitian Creole: niilism‎
  • Macedonian: нихилизам‎
  • Occitan: niilisme‎
  • Lithuanian: nihilizmas‎
  • Russian: нигили́зм‎ (masc.)
  • Rusyn: нігілізм‎
  • Kyrgyz: нигилизм‎
  • Kazakh: нигилизм‎
  • Ukrainian: нігілізм‎
  • Persian: نیهیلیسم‎
  • Korean: 허무주의‎
  • German: Nihilismus‎ (masc.)
  • Tagalog: nihilismo‎
  • Latvian: nihilisms‎
  • Danish: nihilisme‎
  • Lower Sorbian: nihilismus‎ (masc.)
  • Greek: μηδενισμός‎ (masc.)
  • Basque: nihilismo‎
  • Hindi: निषेधवाद‎, नाइलीज़्म‎, विनाशवाद‎
  • Kurdish: hîçperestî‎, hîçparêzî‎, tuneperestî‎, nînperestî‎, nîhîlîzm‎
  • Esperanto: neniismo‎, nihilismo‎
  • Tamil: இல்லாமை தத்துவம்‎, நீலிசம்‎
  • Catalan: nihilisme‎
  • Latin: nihilismus‎ (masc.)
  • Estonian: nihilism‎
  • Spanish: nihilismo‎
  • Galician: nihilismo‎
  • Irish: nihileachas‎ (masc.)
  • Serbo-Croatian: nihilizam‎ (masc.)
  • Turkish: nihilizm‎, hiççilik‎, yokçuluk‎
  • Hungarian: nihilizmus‎
  • Azeri: nihilizm‎
  • Japanese: ニヒリズム‎ (nihirizumu), 虚無主義‎ (きょむしゅぎ, kyomushugi)
  • Romanian: nihilism‎
  • Punjabi: ਨਹਿਲਵਾਦ‎ (nahilavāda)
  • Slovak: nihilizmus‎
  • Bulgarian: нихилизъм‎
  • Uzbek: nigilizm‎
  • Malayalam: നിഹിലിസം‎
  • Dutch: nihilisme‎ (neut.)

What Is the Etymology of the Word Nihilism?

The term nihilism originates from the German nihilismus and Latin nihil, which means nothing. 

What Are Synonyms of Nihilism?

Since the word nihilism is a clearly founded belief system, it is not always the right word in a sentence. In times where you don’t exactly mean nihilism but are looking for another word that is similar to nihilism, you can reference this list of synonyms from Power Thesaurus. These all evoke the same sense as the word nihilism but are more applicable across situations:

  • abeyance
  • absence of moral values
  • agnosticism
  • anarchy
  • atheism
  • chaos
  • confusion
  • cynicism
  • defeatism
  • denial
  • disbelief
  • disorder
  • distrust
  • doubt
  • dubiety
  • the expectation of the worst
  • godlessness
  • heresy
  • incredulity
  • incredulousness
  • irreligion
  • lawlessness
  • misrule
  • mob rule
  • mobocracy
  • negativity
  • nihilistic delusion
  • non-theism
  • nonbelief
  • nongovernment
  • pessimism
  • rebellion
  • rejection
  • renunciation
  • repudiation
  • revolution
  • skepticism
  • suspicion
  • turmoil
  • unbelief
  • unbelievingness
  • unfaith


In conclusion, the concept of nihilism refers to the belief that traditional ideals, morals, and moral truths lack value and that current social and political institutions are so corrupt that we need to destroy them. This idea was founded by Friedrich Nietzsche and grew to popularity throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.


  1. A List of All Religions and Belief Systems | Human Religions 
  2. Nihilism synonyms – 748 Words and Phrases for Nihilism | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Nihilism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy | UTM