A nihilistic art movement from 1916 to 1924, originating in Zurich as a reaction against World War I and the bourgoisie and in response to the poetry of Tristan Tzara. Dada originated when a group of young war resisters and artists, including Tzara, stuck a knife into a French German dictionary to find it pointing to dada, the French babytalk word for "hobbyhorse." The nonsense word suited their intent to protest the insanity of the war by eradicating all aesthetic and philosophical order through outrageous nonsense. At least one Dada exhibit offered viewers hatchets to destroy the already chopped-up assemblages.
The Harper Handbook to Literature, Second Edition