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 The pragmatic, compromising Democratic moderates apparently can’t pragmatically agree to compromise on a preferred presidential candidate. NBC News, "Meet the Press - February 16, 2020," 16 Feb. 2020 On Taiwan, an issue which Beijing has been using for decades to drum up angry nationalist sentiment, the chance of a more shrewd, pragmatic approach is even less likely. James Griffiths, CNN, "Taiwan has slipped through China's fingers, but will Beijing ever admit it?," 13 Jan. 2020 Lutzko said her pragmatic approach to the position has led to her spearheading a change in trustee meeting times and public comment periods during trustee meetings in order to accommodate more legislative transparency and public input. Brian Lisik, cleveland, "Hinckley Township trustee faces former trustee in Nov. 5 election," 22 Oct. 2019 Witten is pragmatic about his future after catching 63 passes for 529 yards (8.4 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. Dallas News, "Jason Witten might not finish his career in Dallas? He wouldn’t be the first longtime Cowboys star to leave," 4 Feb. 2020 Tomorrow night, a lot of people may be asked to be more pragmatic, right? NBC News, "Meet the Press - February 2, 2020," 2 Feb. 2020 The two candidates take different approaches to their candidacies, with Klobuchar, 59, offering a pragmatic approach and Warren, 70, pitching a left-wing vision of dramatic structural change. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "New York Times endorses Warren and Klobuchar in Democratic primary," 19 Jan. 2020 Topics have ranged from the philosophical defense of American Conservatism and constitutional order to the pragmatic policy solutions that will ensure our freedoms and way of life. Lindsay Craig, National Review, "Our Movement Is Stronger . . . Together," 13 Dec. 2019 Ivey's Maggie is a pragmatic, uncomplaining woman who makes light of most difficulties, maintaining a cheery attitude — a kind of willful obliviousness — perhaps as a defense mechanism against the inevitable force of crushing reality. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Greater Clements': Theater Review," 10 Dec. 2019

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

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pragmatic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

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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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