(noun) The belief that all things (objects) animate and inanimate are endowed with an impersonal, supernatural life force that influences people and events.

Example: A rainstorm and a rock have power.

Audio Pronunciation: (an·i·ma·tism)

Download Audio Pronunciation: animatism.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: animatisms
  • Coined by Robert Marrett (1866–1943) in The Threshold of Religion (1900) as a criticism of  Edward Tylor’s (1832–1917) idea of animism developed in Primitive Culture (1871).
  • Marret developed the concept of animatism based on Robert Henry Codrington’s (1830–1922) The Melanesians: Studies in their Anthropology and Folk-Lore (1891). Codrington’s ethnography began anthropology’s fascination with the topic of mana or an essential and impersonal, supernatural power that resides in all people, places, and things (objects). In addition to the The Threshold of Religion (1900), Marret continued to explore mana in Anthropology (1912), and Psychology and Folklore (1920). Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) in Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912) would later contend that totemism was the most basic expression of religion, therefore disagreeing with both Tylor and Marrett.
  • Animatism is often confused with animism, the distinction between the two is animatism contends that everything has the same force and animism contends everything has a unique spirit, not a shared one.
  • Also called:
    • manaism
    • preanimism (pre-animism)
  • Derived from the Latin word for soul: anima.
  • Animatism used in a sentence: Anthropologists study animatism.
  • A person that believes in animatism is an (noun) animatist and has an (adjective) animatistic belief system.

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Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.


Animatism Works Consulted

Macmillan. (N.d.) Macmillan Dictionary. (

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Princeton University. 2010. WordNet. (

Random House Webster’s College Dictionary. 1997. New York: Random House.

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tischler, Henry L. 2011. Introduction to Sociology. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (


How to Cite the Definition of Animatism

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “animatism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved July 18, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

animatism. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “animatism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed July 18, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“animatism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 18 Jul. 2019. <>.