- Animism (from animus, or anima, mind or soul), originally means the doctrine of spiritual beings.
- It is often extended to include the belief that personalized, supernatural beings (or souls) endowed with reason, intelligence and volition inhabit ordinary objects as well as animate beings, and govern their existence (pantheism or animatism). More simply, the belief is that "everything is alive", "everything is conscious" or "everything has a soul".
- It has been further extended to mean a belief that the world is a community of living persons, only some of whom are human. It also refers to the culture or philosophy which these types of Animists live by, that is, to attempt to relate respectfully with the persons (human, rock, plant, animal, bird, ancestral, etc.) who are also members of the wider community of life.
There are three differing definitions of what constitutes animism. The most widely held and accepted is that it is a belief in non-human souls.