func·​tion·​al·​ism | \ ˈfəŋ(k)-shnə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce functionalism (audio) , -shə-nə-ˌli- \

Definition of functionalism

1 : 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
2 : a philosophy of design (as in architecture) holding that form should be adapted to use, material, and structure
3 : a theory that stresses the interdependence of the patterns and institutions of a society and their interaction in maintaining cultural and social unity
4 : a doctrine or practice that emphasizes practical utility or functional relations

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Other Words from functionalism

functionalist \ ˈfəŋ(k)-​shnə-​list How to pronounce functionalist (audio) , -​shə-​nə-​list \ noun
functionalist or functionalistic \ ˌfən(k)-​shnə-​ˈli-​stik How to pronounce functionalistic (audio) , -​shə-​nə-​ˈli-​ \ adjective

Examples of functionalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Appeals to religious authority in this context often flitter between spiritual transcendence and crude worldly functionalism. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Bill Barr’s Invisible Crusade," 8 June 2020 The passions that famously drove the Bauhaus, a love of mass production and functionalism, were anathema to this generation. New York Times, "Living With Freaky Furniture," 12 Mar. 2020 An Italian immigrant who arrived from Sicily around 1910, Candela studied to become an architect at Columbia University, where Beaux Arts classical knowhow was still valued but inklings of pragmatic modern functionalism were seeping in from abroad. Julie V. Iovine, WSJ, "‘Elegance in the Sky: The Architecture of Rosario Candela’ Review: King of Apartments," 29 May 2018 But while such panache would seem far from efficient functionalism, the piece was designed with function as a top priority: to better disperse heat than a traditional radiator. Alex Palmer, Smithsonian, "Have We Been Building Chairs All Wrong?," 14 Oct. 2017 By the ’30s, however, the movement was eclipsed, in Sweden as well as internationally, by functionalism and the politicized mass production of home furnishings (see Ikea). Alexa Brazilian, New York Times, "Not All Scandinavian Design is Minimalist," 16 Feb. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'functionalism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of functionalism

1904, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of functionalism was in 1904

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Last Updated

12 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Functionalism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2020.

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Britannica English: Translation of functionalism for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about functionalism

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