Sadism, masochism and sadomasochism

Sadism, masochism and sadomasochism are three words that are often confused. We will examine the difference between the definitions of sadism, masochism and sadomasochism, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Sadism is the practice of obtaining pleasure by inflicting pain and suffering on another. Sadism may be of a sexual nature, or it may not. A person who practices sadism is a sadist, the adjective form is sadistic. The word sadism is derived from the Count Donatien de Sade, an eighteenth century French nobleman who wrote novels depicting sexual violence and cruelty.

Masochism is the practice of obtaining pleasure by infliction pain and suffering on oneself. Masochism may be of a sexual nature, or it may not. A person who practices masochism is a masochist, the adjective form is masochistic. The word masochism is derived from the name Leopoldo von Scher-Masoch, an author of a novel depicting sexual submission.

Sadomasochism is the practice of obtaining pleasure by both inflicting pain and having pain inflicted upon oneself. Sadomasochism is nearly always of a sexual nature. The person who practices sadomasochism is a sadomasochism, the adjective form is sadomasochistic. The word sadomasochism first appeared in 1916 as a portmanteau of the words sadism and masochism. A portmanteau is a word constructed by blending the sounds and meanings of two different words. Note that sadomasochism is properly rendered without a hyphen, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, though it is often seen spelled with a hyphen as in sado-masochism.


His work often betrays a distinctly cruel disregard for audience comfort, bordering at times on sadism. (The Kansas City Star)

“The exhibition is a means of exploring the relationship between mastery and masochism–what we do to our bodies, the pleasure and the pain–in service of aesthetic perfection,” said Fernandes, a former dancer and the 2017 Graham Foundation performance artist-in-residence. (The Architect’s Newspaper)

The featherweight sadomasochism scenes – the primary selling point of EL James’s awful books and these equally dreadful movies – depict a sex life so defined by rules, one half expects Dornan to cry out “Brace yourself, Bridget!” In his native Belfast accent. (The Irish Times)

Help Us Improve!

Help Us Improve!

- Did we make a mistake?
- Do you have feedback or suggestions on how we can improve?