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The word 'communism' and 'communist' were certainly popularized by the title of 'The Communist Manifesto' by Mark and Engels.

But was the word 'communist' used prior to Marxist writings? Or was it coined for use in the Communist Manifesto?

  • 5
    It's Lenin, not Lennon. For crying out loud. – michael.hor257k Dec 31 '18 at 16:48
  • @michael.hor257k Similarly, it's Marx, not Mark. – Ray Dec 31 '18 at 22:23
  • Well, at least Spencer got out of this. – michael.hor257k Dec 31 '18 at 22:27
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    Coincidentally, Marx and Spencer are buried in the same cemetery in London. ;) Not to be confused with Marks and Spencer... – Quuxplusone Jan 1 '19 at 1:04
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The word was used in English in 1840 according to the OED, which I believe narrowly beats out Marx’s writings:

Noun:

The Communists have their meetings, and the Radical Reformers, who do not go the length of an agrarian law, dine together in numbers.

1840   Morning Chron. 13 July 2/7 

Adjective:

A social banquet of the adherents of the Communist, or Communitarian school is expected to take place.

1840   J. G. Barmby in New Moral World 1 Aug. 75/1

Communism:

A man named Dufraisse..concluded with an exposition of the doctrines of Communism..much the same as what Mr. Owen preaches in England, under the name of Socialism.

1840   N.-Y. Spectator 22 Aug. 2/1 

Both communist and communism in this sense come from French.

1

communism ~ 1843 and communist ~ 1841

Etymology and 1st Usages:

communism (n.)

1843, "social system based on collective ownership," from French communisme (c. 1840), from commun (Old French comun "common, general, free, open, public;" see common (adj.)) + -isme (see -ism).

Originally a description of a society, by the early 20c. it was a general a term of abuse for revolutionaries, implying anti-social criminality without regard to political theory. The full etymology in in the citation.

The noun communist now has the following definition: TFD

a. A member of a movement or political party that advocates Communism. b. A supporter of such a party or movement. 2. A Communard. 3. often communist A radical viewed as a subversive or revolutionary.

So to answer your question:

  • But was the word 'communist' used prior to Marxist writings? Or was it coined for use in the Communist Manifesto?

The were very closely co-located in time. It appears the word was incorporated into the English corpus (~ 1841) just prior to the Communist Manifesto (1850).

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