"attribution of living souls to inanimate objects," 1866, reintroduced by English anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Taylor (1832-1917), who defined it (1871) as the "theory of the universal animation of nature," from Latin anima "life, breath, soul" (from PIE root *ane- "to breathe") + -ism.
Earlier sense was of "doctrine that animal life is produced by an immaterial soul" (1832), from German Animismus, coined c. 1720 by physicist/chemist Georg Ernst Stahl (1660-1734) based on the concept of the anima mundi. Animist is attested from 1819, in Stahl's sense. Related: Animisic.
updated on May 11, 2017