prag·​mat·​ic | \ prag-ˈma-tik How to pronounce pragmatic (audio) \
variants: or less commonly pragmatical \ prag-​ˈma-​ti-​kəl How to pronounce pragmatic (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 a pragmatic leader a pragmatic [=practical] approach to health care
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 pragmatic (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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web Does that mean the Old Dominion has a more pragmatic approach, friendly to both business and drivers? Washington Post, 4 July 2021 Breyer, known for his pragmatic approach to cases, was the author of the code copyright, health care and cheerleading cases in an unusually prominent turn for a justice who is known for trying to bridge the court’s ideological divide. Mark Sherman, Anchorage Daily News, 2 July 2021 Or the 82-year-old liberal justice could reason that his pragmatic, collaborative approach to judging has never been more needed on the high court and decide to stick around. Mark Sherman, Star Tribune, 29 June 2021 An optimist might take this as a victory for Smith and for Scalia’s pragmatic approach to Free Exercise claims for general and neutral laws. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 17 June 2021 Some union figures have therefore taken a more pragmatic approach. Tina Bellon, The Christian Science Monitor, 9 June 2021 China is taking a pragmatic approach to the dangerous—and expensive—world of naval aviation. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 9 June 2021 To that point, President Biden’s support of the previous administration’s bold space policies including the Artemis program, Artemis Accords and Space Force speaks very highly of this White House’s pragmatic approach to space policy. Greg Autry, Forbes, 28 May 2021 People for whom this was a very pragmatic decision. CBS News, 19 May 2021

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

15 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pragmatic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for pragmatic



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

More from Merriam-Webster on pragmatic

Nglish: Translation of pragmatic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pragmatic for Arabic Speakers


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