Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The deriving of sexual gratification or the tendency to derive sexual gratification from inflicting pain or emotional abuse on others.
  • n. The deriving of pleasure, or the tendency to derive pleasure, from cruelty.
  • n. Extreme cruelty.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. the enjoyment of inflicting pain without pity
  • n. achievement of sexual gratification by inflicting pain on others
  • n. gaining sexual excitement and satisfaction by watching pain inflicted by others on their victims
  • n. a morbid form of enjoyment achieved by acting cruelly to another, or others
  • n. Deliberate cruelty, either mental or physical; also refers to cruelty inflicted upon animals, regardless of gratification

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A form of sexual perversion marked by extreme cruelty.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. sexual pleasure obtained by inflicting harm (physical or psychological) on others

Etymologies

After Comte Donatien Alphonse François de Sade.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Named after the Marquis de Sade, famed for his libertine writings depicting the pleasure of inflicting pain to others. The word for "sadism" (sadisme) is forged or acknowledged in the 1834 posthumous reprint of French lexicographer Boiste's Dictionnaire universel de la langue française; it is reused along with "sadist" (sadique) in 1862 by French critic Sainte-Beuve in his commentary of Flaubert's novel Salammbô; it is reused (possibly independently) in 1886 by Austrian psychiatrist Krafft-Ebing in Psychopathia Sexualis which popularized it; it is directly reused in 1905 by Freud in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality which definitely established the word. (Wiktionary)

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