ide·​al·​ism | \ ī-ˈdē-(ə-)ˌliz-əm How to pronounce idealism (audio) , ˈī-(ˌ)dē- \

Definition of idealism

1a : the practice of forming ideals or living under their influence
b : something that is idealized
2a(1) : a theory that ultimate reality lies in a realm transcending phenomena
(2) : a theory that the essential nature of reality lies in consciousness or reason
b(1) : a theory that only the perceptible is real
(2) : a theory that only mental states or entities are knowable
3 : literary or artistic theory or practice that affirms the preeminent value of imagination as compared with faithful copying of nature — compare realism

Examples of idealism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web All in all, the song rebukes the gauzy notion of the Baby Boomer wave—or the American story itself—as marked by idealism and progress. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "It’s a Good Moment for Bob Dylan’s Pessimism," 19 June 2020 Even its plot feels otherworldly in its idealism and simplicity. Ari Saperstein, WSJ, "How the First Popular Movie Ever to Stream Online Was Made," 8 June 2020 But Kahle's idealism—or foolishness—might cost him dearly. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Lawsuit over online book lending could bankrupt Internet Archive," 1 June 2020 There’s also populism versus Marxism versus capitalism, and nihilism versus idealism, and also Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Sonaiya Kelley, Los Angeles Times, "Netflix’s class warfare movie ‘The Platform’ has struck a chord. Two economists explain why," 15 Apr. 2020 At the same time, the drama is careful to delineate what a special moment the 1970s were for the women's movement — in all its idealism, excess and, eventually, doom. Inkoo Kang, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Mrs. America': TV Review," 2 Apr. 2020 Now the question is whether the Olympics can become, again, a symbol of hope and idealism, rather than of greed and delusion. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, "COVID-19 Is a Threat to the 2020 Games. The I.O.C. Is a Threat to the Olympic Project," 24 Mar. 2020 But on Thursday, just before gaveling the House’s half of the 2020 Legislature to an abrupt, early close, the Portland Democrat gave a speech brimming with fear, pride, idealism and – above all – anger. oregonlive, "Normally staid Oregon House Speaker decries session marred by cheating, ‘corrosion of democratic process,’ shame and a ‘hostage situation’," 6 Mar. 2020 Business folk are motivated by idealism, vanity and calculated self-interest. The Economist, "The World in 2020 Bosses will pay a price for mixing politics and corporate values," 26 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'idealism.' 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 idealism

circa 1743, in the meaning defined at sense 2a(1)

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The first known use of idealism was circa 1743

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Last Updated

27 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Idealism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2020.

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How to pronounce idealism (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of idealism

: the attitude of a person who believes that it is possible to live according to very high standards of behavior and honesty

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