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 While the prospect of baseball’s return has fans excited after several months without sports, those within the game are pragmatic about the conditions under which this 60-game season will be contested. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Will MLB be able to complete abbreviated 60-game season as coronavirus cases rise?," 28 June 2020 As is wont to happen when talking politics with parents, their election day chatter turns contentious as pragmatic Dede supporter Andi scoffs at Jayne’s stalwart belief in Payton’s ability to save the precarious state of the environment., "The Politician season 2 binge recap," 19 June 2020 Klobuchar, 60, was among a large field of Democrats who had sought the 2020 presidential nomination, running as a pragmatic Midwesterner who has passed over 100 bills. Sara Burnett, Anchorage Daily News, "Klobuchar urges Biden to pick woman of color as his running mate," 19 June 2020 Viewed through a narrow lens, the furlough scheme is simply a pragmatic response to an unprecedented economic shock, whereby the government is bearing an unusually large share of the risks posed by the covid-19 crisis. The Economist, "Social insurance Who bears risk—people or government?," 13 June 2020 Kim, who has a pragmatic disposition, and Farmer, who has a more idealistic one, had anticipated that the main argument against their program would be that the outbreak in Massachusetts was simply too advanced for contact tracing to do much good. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, "Can Coronavirus Contact Tracing Survive Reopening?," 12 June 2020 About the same share, three in four, support more pragmatic solutions. Rajiv J. Shah, Fortune, "Uber CEO and Rockefeller Foundation chief: American workers need a better safety net," 9 June 2020 But when authoritarians like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan feel betrayed -- or even publicly scorned -- the consequences are emotional, not pragmatic. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, "Tensions escalate between Kremlin and Ankara after dozens of Turkish troops killed in Syria," 28 Feb. 2020 Another New England stereotype is that its players might be inclined to be pragmatic, defensive types. Frank Dell’apa,, "Homegrown Damian Rivera strikes quickly for Revolution," 12 Feb. 2020

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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Statistics for pragmatic

Last Updated

2 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pragmatic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for pragmatic


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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