prag·​mat·​ic | \prag-ˈma-tik \
variants: or less commonly pragmatical \prag-​ˈma-​ti-​kəl \

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

b : opinionated

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Other Words from pragmatic

pragmatic noun
pragmatically \prag-​ˈma-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē \ 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

The liberal justice who stands in clearest opposition to this pragmatic approach is Sonia Sotomayor. Jeffrey Rosen, WSJ, "What We Learn from Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings," 13 July 2018 And indeed, with his new endeavor, Sternberg owns all the inventory, which informs his overall pragmatic approach. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "Scott Sternberg Calls On Spike Jonze and Jason Schwartzman to Spread the Word About His New Brand Entireworld," 19 June 2018 Perceptive and ruthlessly pragmatic program officers will need to be recruited: ones with a sense of the mission’s urgency. David Roberts, Vox, "The US is rapidly losing nuclear power. That’s profoundly concerning for climate change.," 11 July 2018 Violet, a pit bull mix, prompted arguments about the proper approach to dog training: pragmatic or idealistic? Anndee Hochman,, "The Parent Trip: Amy and Josh Rothstein of Wyndmoor," 26 Mar. 2018 Her boiler suit is as pragmatic and protective a costume as any female anti-hero can wear. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "How Will Women Dress in 2018? Look to Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," 1 Mar. 2018 In reality, Lopez Obrador is more pragmatic than the more hardcore ideologues. Kate Linthicum,, "Rocky under Trump, U.S.-Mexico relations will be tested under new president Lopez Obrador," 3 July 2018 After the Scopes trial, Oregon leaders, ever pragmatic, changed their strategy to campaign to have creationism taught alongside evolution. Longreads, "Oregon’s Racist Past," 12 July 2018 The boat is an essential part of Headley’s highly pragmatic ethos, and provides a constraint: any side dish needs to be ample enough to fill it, without costing more than ten dollars. Marian Bull, GQ, "The Superiority Burger Cookbook Has the Secret to the Best Mushrooms You'll Ever Eat," 7 June 2018

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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Statistics for pragmatic

Last Updated

4 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for pragmatic

The first known use of pragmatic was circa 1612

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More Definitions for pragmatic



English Language Learners Definition of pragmatic

: 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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Comments on pragmatic

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


to make faulty or ineffective

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