Socialist Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

This guide will help you understand the meaning of socialist with the help of definitions, its origins, synonyms, antonyms, examples, and more.

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We hear words thrown around in the news, in our political climate, and in conversations, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is using the word in the same way or with the same intentions. 

When you familiarize yourself with the true meaning of a word, you’re better prepared when you hear it to discern for yourself if the word is applicable in a given situation. When you understand the meaning of a word, you can also be more confident when you use it that you’re using it correctly.

So, what exactly does socialist mean?

What Is the Meaning of the Word Socialist?

The word socialist (so-cial-ist) is both a noun and an adjective. A socialist as a noun has two definitions. Here are the definitions of socialist as a noun:

  • An advocate, supporter, or proponent of socialism
  • (capitalized) A member of the U.S. Socialist party

Socialist as an adjective is a descriptive term. As an adjective, it is spelled socialistic, and it has the following definitions:

  • Of or relating to socialism or socialists
  • In accordance with the principles of socialism 
  • Supporting, advocating, or promoting socialism

To understand the word socialist, it’s important to learn the definition of socialism. Socialism is an economic system, but it is also an ideology. 

What Is the Origin of the Word Socialist?

A word’s origin story is also known as its etymology. Studying the history and origin of a word can help us to uncover its meaning and the connotation it has taken throughout its usage. The word socialist is a derivative word from socialism.

Socialism is an early 19th century English word. It has roots in the English social and the French socialisme. The French socialisme comes from the French social.

 The Late Middle English social comes from either the Old French or Latin socialis meaning “allied,” which came from the Latin socius meaning “friend.” According to some, the word comes from the Latin sociare, which means “to share or combine.” 

How Has the Word Socialist Been Used Historically?

The word socialism is claimed to have first been used by Pierre Leroux. Leroux claimed to have first used the term in the Parisian journal Le Globe in 1832. Leroux was an early socialist that followed Henri de Saint-Simon. Saint-Simon was the founder of doctrine that would later be called utopian socialism.

Socialism was initially a contrasting principle to individualism. Individualism emphasizes an individual’s moral worth, but individualists lived as if their lives were isolated from the lives of others. Early utopian socialists condemned individualism because it didn’t address the social concerns of the Industrial Revolution. Some of the common social concerns that socialists hoped to address include:

  • Poverty
  • Wealth inequality
  • Oppression

Socialists today argue against similar social concerns that they feel capitalist economies fail to address, similar to the individualists and industrialists of the Industrial Revolution. Socialists believe that competition is what promotes societal problems for citizens. 

A socialist economy presented a doctrine that emphasized the collective ownership or public ownership of natural resources. The socialist economic system uses economic planning and scientific understanding applied to society’s organization.

Through the Years

Socialism had a firm definition by the 1860s. During this time, the word communism fell out of use. Before that, in 1848, Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto. Marx’s theories on society, economics, and politics is known as Marxism. The Marxist theory favored a socialist production. By 1888, Marxists turned to socialism as a synonym for communism because it favored application in production and throughout society.

During the Bolshevik Revolution or Russian Revolution in Russia, Vladimir Lenin labeled socialism as the step between capitalism and communism. This distinction between communism and socialism was further blurred when the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party renamed itself the All-Russian Communist Party in 1918. This tie to communism tainted the respectability of the word in eastern Europe.

For some, socialism was tainted by the right-wing political party in Germany known as the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. The party is more infamously known as the Nazi Party. Due to the atrocities of WWII, the term socialist gained a negative connotation that many still assign to the word.

However, some countries have a social democracy, and these government systems have similar values to socialism. Some of the countries with a social democracy or a party of social democrats include:

  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Norway
  • Iceland

What Are the Synonyms for the Word Socialist?

Synonyms are words that have the same meaning. Sometimes, when you have hot-button words, it becomes necessary to choose a different word to get your meaning across without alienating your audience. When you have synonyms at the ready, it is easier to choose the right word for your situation. 

Here are synonyms for the word socialist:

  • Leftist
  • Liberal
  • Progressive
  • Reformist
  • Latitudinarian
  • Left-wing
  • Advanced

What Are the Antonyms for the Word Socialist?

Antonyms have the opposite meaning of a particular word. When you have antonyms, you can express opposing thoughts or explain yourself in other ways. You can also deepen your understanding of the word by learning what it does not mean. 

Here are antonyms for the word socialist:

  • Conservative
  • Right-wing

What Are Some Examples for How To Use the Word Socialist?

Example sentences provide more context for a word, and we learn a lot about how to use or implement a word when we look at example sentences. You may even discover a new way to use a word you already know. 

Here are example sentences for the word socialist:

  • Bernie Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist.
  • The United States has some socialist systems already in place.
  • Socialists have struggled to recover the good message in their beliefs since WWII.
  • Is it right vs. left or just capitalists vs. socialists?

The Last Word

When you understand the different aspects of a word like socialist, you can see how it can result in different reactions and prompt various emotions from others. 

Now that you are more familiar with the word, you might be able to explain yourself more plainly to others or choose the right time to employ this word more effectively. Whether the word socialist is bad or good is subjective, but now, you can decide for yourself.


  1. Socialism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) | Stanford University
  2. Socialism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy 
  3. Pierre Leroux(1797-1871) | University of Ohio