func·​tion·​al·​ism ˈfəŋ(k)-shnə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce functionalism (audio)
: a late 19th century to early 20th century American school of psychology concerned especially with how the mind functions to adapt the individual to the environment compare structuralism sense 1
: a philosophy of design (as in architecture) holding that form should be adapted to use, material, and structure
: a theory that stresses the interdependence of the patterns and institutions of a society and their interaction in maintaining cultural and social unity
: a doctrine or practice that emphasizes practical utility or functional relations
ˈfəŋ(k)-shnə-list How to pronounce functionalism (audio)
functionalist adjective
or functionalistic
ˌfən(k)-shnə-ˈli-stik How to pronounce functionalism (audio)

Examples of functionalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The impact of functionalism The functionalist movement’s beginnings compounded technology with the key to shaping our cities in a new way. Carlos Moreno, Fortune, 7 May 2024 The chandelier was just one example of a conspicuous incongruity between the building’s high-tech functionalism and the couple’s taste in décor. Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker, 25 Mar. 2024 Parsons' Social Action Theory Talcott Parsons, a significant figure in 20th-century sociological theory, introduced functionalism to understand how society's various parts contribute to its stability or equilibrium. Sindhu Bhaskar, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024 Around the same time, the Mexican artist and architect Juan O’Gorman, an early proponent of functionalism in the Americas, turned toward an esoteric style exemplified by the midcentury Casa Cueva, with its irregular volumes and elaborate stone mosaics. Michael Snyder Ana Topoleanu, New York Times, 8 Nov. 2023 The city was once center of the architectural style called Italian Rationalism, developed in the 1920s and 1930s based on principles of functionalism for which a building should clearly reflect the purpose for which it was created without much flourish. John Mariani, Forbes, 23 Sep. 2021 Naumann recalls the arrival of these wacky postmodern designs in Zwickau as a stark departure from the post-Bauhaus functionalism then prevalent in the former Communist bloc. Evan Moffitt, New York Times, 13 Feb. 2023 In the 1970s, the language of Modernism ruptured as postmodernists questioned functionalism in architecture and the West’s fundamental belief in Renaissance unity. Joseph Giovannini, New York Times, 29 Dec. 2022 This was the doctrine of functionalism, which presented itself as the architecture of reason, and its most influential thinker in terms of city planning was Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect. Michael J. Lewis, National Review, 3 Sep. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'functionalism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1904, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of functionalism was in 1904

Dictionary Entries Near functionalism

Cite this Entry

“Functionalism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2024.

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