adjective prag·mat·ic \prag-ˈma-tik\
variants: or less commonly


play \-ti-kəl\

Definition of pragmatic

  1. 1 archaic a (1) :  busy (2) :  officiousb :  opinionated

  2. 2 :  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

  3. 3 :  relating to or being in accordance with philosophical pragmatism




play \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of pragmatic in a sentence

  1. … 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

  2. … 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

  3. 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

  4. … and her mysticism never failed to exasperate her pragmatic, mountain-climbing daughter. —Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 1989

  5. His pragmatic view of public education comes from years of working in city schools.

  6. a pragmatic man, not given to grand, visionary schemes

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.

Origin and Etymology of pragmatic

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

PRAGMATIC Defined for English Language Learners


adjective prag·mat·ic \prag-ˈma-tik\

Definition of pragmatic for English Language Learners

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

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up pragmatic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a brief usually trivial fact

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