adjective prag·mat·ic \ prag-ˈma-tik \
variants: or less commonly pragmatical play \prag-ˈma-ti-kəl\
|Updated on: 12 Aug 2018

Definition of pragmatic

1 archaic
a (1) : busy
(2) : officious
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 : relating to or being in accordance with philosophical pragmatism




play \prag-ˈma-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 UpdikeNew York Review of Books15 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. FreedmanDiscoverJuly 1994
  3. pragmatic enough to have held on to their day jobs for years after they were putting out records. —Chris MundyRolling Stone16 Sept. 1993
  4. … and her mysticism never failed to exasperate her pragmatic, mountain-climbing daughter. —Salman RushdieThe Satanic Verses1989
  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

Recent Examples of pragmatic from the Web

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.

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

PRAGMATIC Defined for English Language Learners


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

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a lighting electrician on a movie set

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