prag·​mat·​ic prag-ˈma-tik How to pronounce pragmatic (audio)
variants or less commonly pragmatical
: relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters : practical as opposed to idealistic
a pragmatic leader
a pragmatic [=practical] approach to health care
: relating to or being in accordance with philosophical pragmatism
: busy
pragmatic noun
pragmatically adverb

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Did you know?

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.

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Example Sentences

In their universe, romance is totally detached from pragmatic concerns and societal pressures … Lev Grossman, Time, 24 Jan. 2005 … 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 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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web Ballard took a pragmatic, logical approach when asked about the streak last week. The Indianapolis Star, 7 Sep. 2022 The Biden team has adopted a pragmatic approach—borrowing parts of Trump’s tough line on China, reenergizing Obama’s regional diplomacy, and mixing in ideas of its own—to create a concerted new campaign of Asian diplomacy. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 29 Aug. 2022 During an interview last summer, shortly after she was appointed to the committee, Luria also argued that her serving on it bolstered her credibility as a pragmatic moderate in a centrist district. Will Weissert, Chicago Tribune, 20 July 2022 Allegri has come in for criticism for his more pragmatic brand of football this season, with Juve conceding possession in a lot of games, even against teams that are smaller and less well equipped. Emmet Gates, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2022 Despite the grilling, Garland, who is widely regarded as a pragmatic moderate, is expected to win bipartisan support for his confirmation. Lissandra Villa, Time, 23 Feb. 2021 His second objection is at once more pragmatic and more alarming. Adam Rowe, WSJ, 12 Aug. 2022 But along with the curiosity comes a pragmatic side, a commitment to seeing those visions through. New York Times, 19 July 2022 Even if Google is trying to be pragmatic with salary changes, these adjustments will only upset employees and lead to people resigning, Bock continues. Chloe Berger, Fortune, 17 May 2022 See More

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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Word History


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

First Known Use

circa 1612, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of pragmatic was circa 1612

Dictionary Entries Near pragmatic

Cite this Entry

“Pragmatic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on pragmatic

Last Updated: 13 Sep 2022

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