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 And then there is the low-level idealism that runs through the novel. Nicole Hemmer, CNN, 15 May 2021 Someone may appreciate your fanciful flights of imagination and extensive idealism. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, 28 Apr. 2021 By contrast, big businessmen, in the book, exhibit an odd combination of idealism, a crippling inability to be anything but phlegmatic in public, and emotional vulnerability. Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker, 31 May 2021 In Beil’s telling, the tale is a complex one of Silicon Valley idealism mixed with greed, politics and addiction. Anna Kuchment, Dallas News, 26 May 2021 The opera works best when hints of defiant idealism are allowed to creep in. New York Times, 20 May 2021 Events like that completely destroy the idealism of a young man about the propaganda of the modernizing China that was coming out of the Maoist era. Annabelle Timsit, Quartz, 18 May 2021 The result of Western idealism versus Russian (and Chinese) realism is about to be played out, first in Europe and then perhaps in the South China Sea. Daniel Markind, Forbes, 7 Apr. 2021 Those younger officers filled with idealism and vigor often also remind older ones about that flame inside, say long-time police officers. Bill Seymour,, 9 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for idealism

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The first known use of idealism was circa 1743

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Statistics for idealism

Last Updated

16 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Idealism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for idealism



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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