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a style of art that developed in the 1960s and uses a small number of simple shapes and colours

a style of music that developed in the 1960s and uses simple repeated rhythms and patterns of musical notes

Origin and usage

The term minimalism, along with its related adjective and noun minimalist, was initially used to refer to the Russian Menscheviks in the early years of the 20th century. It started to be used to refer to pared-down styles of art and music in the 1960s. It is formed from the adjective ‘minimal’ and the suffix -ism.


The idea of minimalism as a style started in the arts, in particular the visual arts and music, and developed into an all-embracing theory about how to live your life. Minimalists reject consumption for its own sake and eschew unnecessary possessions, choosing to live a simpler and less cluttered life. In terms of design, minimalism removes ornamentation to focus on what needs to be there.


“I am a minimalist. I like saying the most with the least.”
(Bob Newhart)

Related words

classicism, modernism

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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