1806, in reference to the Cyrenaic school of philosophy that deals with the ethics of pleasure; with -ist + Greek hedone "pleasure, delight, enjoyment; a pleasure, a delight," which is related to hedys "sweet" and cognate with Latin suavis, from PIE *swad-ona, suffixed form of root *swad- "sweet, pleasant" (see sweet (adj.)). Meaning "one who regards pleasure as the chief goal of life" is from 1854. A hedonist is properly the follower of any ethical system in which some sort of pleasure ranks as the highest good. The Epicurean identifies this pleasure with the practice of virtue.
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