[ mag-ni-tiz-uh m ]
/ ˈmæg nɪˌtɪz əm /


the properties of attraction possessed by magnets; the molecular properties common to magnets.
the agency producing magnetic phenomena.
the science dealing with magnetic phenomena.
strong attractive power or charm: Everyone succumbed to the magnetism of his smile.

Origin of magnetism

From the New Latin word magnētismus, dating back to 1610–20. See magnet, -ism

Example sentences from the Web for magnetism

British Dictionary definitions for magnetism

/ (ˈmæɡnɪˌtɪzəm) /


the property of attraction displayed by magnets
any of a class of phenomena in which a field of force is caused by a moving electric charge See also electromagnetism, ferromagnetism, diamagnetism, paramagnetism
the branch of physics concerned with magnetic phenomena
powerful attraction

Derived forms of magnetism

magnetist, noun

Scientific definitions for magnetism

[ măgnĭ-tĭz′əm ]

The properties or effects of magnetic fields.
The force produced by a magnetic field. See more at magnetic field.

A Closer Look

Magnetism is intimately linked with electricity, in that a magnetic field is established whenever electric charges are in motion, as in the flow of electrons in a wire, or the movement of electrons around an atomic nucleus. In atoms, this invisible field consists of closed loops called lines of force that surround and run through the atom. Magnetic regions where lines of force come together densely are called north and south poles. In substances in which the magnetic fields of each atom are aligned, the magnetic field causes the entire substance to act like single magnet-with north and south poles and a surrounding magnetic field. Permanent magnets are made of substances that retain this alignment. If a magnet is cut in two, each piece becomes a separate magnet with two poles. A coil of wire wrapped around an iron core can be made magnetic by running electric current through it; the looping electrons then create a magnetic field in just the same way as the spinning electrons in individual atoms. As long as current flows, the coil remains magnetized. Such magnets, called electromagnets, are used in many devices such as doorbells and switches. The connection between electric and magnetic fields is not one of cause and effect, however. Einstein showed that both the magnetic and electric fields are part of a single electromagnetic field, described by a single mathematical object called a tensor. Observers in different reference frames will not observe the same separate values for electric and magnetic fields, but will observe identical electromagnetic tensors. Whether or not magnetic monopoles (elementary particles carrying an isolated north or south magnetic “charge,” analogous to positive or negative electric charge) actually exist remains unknown; though they are predicted by some theories, none have been detected.

Cultural definitions for magnetism


A fundamental property of some materials (for example, iron) and electrical currents (see also current) by which they are capable of exerting a force on magnets. (See electromagnet, magnet, and magnetic field.)