Chauvinism is a form of extreme patriotism and a belief in national superiority and glory. Whereas patriotism and nationalism may represent temperate pride, chauvinism is intemperate. It can be also defined as "an irrational belief in the superiority or dominance of one's own group or people". Moreover, the chauvinist's own people are seen as unique and special while the rest of the people are considered weak or inferior.
According to legend, French soldier Nicolas Chauvin was badly wounded in the Napoleonic wars. He received a pension for his injuries but it was not enough to live on. After Napoleon abdicated, Chauvin was a fanatical Bonapartist despite the unpopularity of this view in Bourbon Restoration France. His single-minded blind devotion to his cause, despite neglect by his faction and harassment by its enemies, started the use of the term.
Chauvinism has extended from its original use to include fanatical devotion and undue partiality to any group or cause to which one belongs, especially when such partisanship includes prejudice against or hostility toward outsiders or rival groups and persists even in the face of overwhelming opposition. This French quality finds its parallel in the British term jingoism, which has retained the meaning of chauvinism strictly in its original sense; that is, an attitude of belligerent nationalism.
In modern English, the word has come to be used in some quarters as shorthand for male chauvinism, a trend reflected in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, which begins its third example of use of the term chauvinism with "an attitude that the members of your own sex are always better than those of the opposite sex".
In 1945, political theorist Hannah Arendt described the concept thus:
Chauvinism is an almost natural product of the national concept in so far as it springs directly from the old idea of the "national mission." ... [A] nation's mission might be interpreted precisely as bringing its light to other, less fortunate peoples that, for whatever reason, have miraculously been left by history without a national mission. As long as this concept did not develop into the ideology of chauvinism and remained in the rather vague realm of national or even nationalistic pride, it frequently resulted in a high sense of responsibility for the welfare of backward people.