prag·​mat·​ic | \ prag-ˈma-tik How to pronounce pragmatic (audio) \
variants: or less commonly pragmatical \ prag-​ˈma-​ti-​kəl How to pronounce pragmatical (audio) \

Definition of pragmatic

1 : relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters : practical as opposed to idealistic pragmatic men of power have had no time or inclination to deal with … social morality— K. B. Clark
2 : relating to or being in accordance with philosophical pragmatism
3 archaic
a(1) : busy
(2) : officious

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Other Words from pragmatic

pragmatic noun
pragmatically \ prag-​ˈma-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce pragmatically (audio) \ adverb

Are you pragmatic?

The word pragmatic has been busy over its more than four centuries of use. Its earliest meanings were "busy," "meddlesome," and "opinionated," but those are now considered archaic uses. The word continues, as it has since the late 19th century, to be used in reference to the philosophical movement of pragmatism (see sense 2). And, as Merriam-Webster Unabridged reports, it also continues to be used in the field of history to describe that which deals with historical events in a way that shows their interconnection. Most often, however, we encounter pragmatic when it is being used to describe people—sometimes ourselves.

So what does it mean for a person to be pragmatic? A person who is pragmatic is concerned more with matters of fact than with what could or should be. A pragmatic person's realm is results and consequences. If that's where your focus is, you may want to apply the word to yourself.

Examples of pragmatic in a Sentence

… their pragmatic successors like Benjamin Franklin were concerned with lightning's … power but not its thrilling scenic value. — John Updike, New York Review of Books, 15 Aug. 2002 … NASA has two coexisting personae with vastly distinct characters: the somewhat romantically motivated manned space program, and the rather more pragmatic unmanned program. — David H. Freedman, Discover, July 1994 pragmatic enough to have held on to their day jobs for years after they were putting out records. — Chris Mundy, Rolling Stone, 16 Sept. 1993 … and her mysticism never failed to exasperate her pragmatic, mountain-climbing daughter. — Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 1989 His pragmatic view of public education comes from years of working in city schools. a pragmatic man, not given to grand, visionary schemes
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Recent Examples on the Web Relieving the tension between activity and fatigue requires a pragmatic approach to DIB operations. Erin L. Thomas, Quartz at Work, "How to turn corporate antiracism from promise to practice," 30 July 2020 There’s something both hardscrabble and pragmatic about her. Lisa Kennedy, The Know, "Guns take center stage in all-female play “The Secretary” at Curious Theatre," 16 Jan. 2020 With so many of us unable to see people in the flesh, WhatsApp, Slack, Instagram and email have morphed from being pragmatic facilitators into lifelines. Vicky Spratt,, "Communication Fail: Please Stop Texting Me," 10 July 2020 The natural sciences gave way to an age of technology, and discoveries that could be put to pragmatic use in an increasingly industrial society. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, "What do Thomas Jefferson, a mastodon skeleton and Alexander von Humboldt have in common? The answer is locked inside the Smithsonian.," 1 July 2020 After his two-year stint in Europe, Douglass became more of an independent thinker and more pragmatic. Kwin Mosby, Travel + Leisure, "How Travel Shaped Frederick Douglass’ Famous Speech 'What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?'," 1 July 2020 While the prospect of baseball’s return has fans excited after several months without sports, those within the game are pragmatic about the conditions under which this 60-game season will be contested. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Will MLB be able to complete abbreviated 60-game season as coronavirus cases rise?," 28 June 2020 As is wont to happen when talking politics with parents, their election day chatter turns contentious as pragmatic Dede supporter Andi scoffs at Jayne’s stalwart belief in Payton’s ability to save the precarious state of the environment., "The Politician season 2 binge recap," 19 June 2020 Klobuchar, 60, was among a large field of Democrats who had sought the 2020 presidential nomination, running as a pragmatic Midwesterner who has passed over 100 bills. Sara Burnett, Anchorage Daily News, "Klobuchar urges Biden to pick woman of color as his running mate," 19 June 2020

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

circa 1612, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for pragmatic

Latin pragmaticus skilled in law or business, from Greek pragmatikos, from pragmat-, pragma deed, from prassein to do — more at practical

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Time Traveler for pragmatic

Time Traveler

The first known use of pragmatic was circa 1612

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Last Updated

7 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pragmatic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for pragmatic


How to pronounce pragmatic (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pragmatic

formal : dealing with the problems that exist in a specific situation in a reasonable and logical way instead of depending on ideas and theories

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