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

Other Words from functionalism

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

Examples of functionalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web 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 Appeals to religious authority in this context often flitter between spiritual transcendence and crude worldly functionalism. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 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, 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, 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, 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, 16 Feb. 2017 See More

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.

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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functional illiterate



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Cite this Entry

“Functionalism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2022.

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


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