prag·​ma·​tism | \ˈprag-mə-ˌti-zəm \

Definition of pragmatism 

1 : a practical approach to problems and affairs tried to strike a balance between principles and pragmatism

2 : an American movement in philosophy founded by C. S. Peirce and William James and marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from pragmatism

pragmatist \ ˈprag-​mə-​tist \ adjective or noun
pragmatistic \ ˌprag-​mə-​ˈti-​stik \ adjective

Examples of pragmatism in a Sentence

To put it rather more crudely, he is trying to sell his integrationist and reformist agenda using traditionalist legal wrappings. It is, of course, this pragmatism, which sometimes comes across as slippery casuistry, that so annoys his critics. — Malise Ruthven, New York Review of Books, 16 Aug. 2007 These are books without slogans, manuals that favor subtlety over simplicity, moderation over bombast, pragmatism over ideology. — Jonathan Tepperman, New York Times Book Review, 16 Oct 2005 … compromise (or better yet, its spirit) symbolizes the necessary pragmatism expected of politics in a pluralist society. — Jack N. Rakove, Original Meanings … , 1996 The right person for the job will balance vision with pragmatism.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

This kind of culture war rhetoric, and the opportunism of the mainstream more generally, is far from the pragmatism and desire for mediation that Christian democrats once exhibited., "Europe forgot what 'conservative' means," 22 Mar. 2018 This pragmatism squeezed the spiritual core from the Brazilian game, making the team difficult to distinguish from its competitors. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, "The Annoying Genius Who Makes the World Cup Worth Watching," 5 July 2018 From the highest levels, the agency is rightly embracing regulatory flexibility by combining a scrupulous review process with pragmatism. WSJ, "Patients Win With More Access to Treatments," 8 July 2018 Sarachan, who’ll be in charge at least through the pre-World Cup friendlies against Bolivia, Ireland and France, has responded with pragmatism. Brian Straus,, "USMNT's New Talents Establish Own Culture, Tactical Identity as Uncertain Future Looms," 28 Mar. 2018 If Helmericks was the reckless mother committed to wild nature for building character and finding spiritual fulfillment, her daughter tempers that same love of nature with pragmatism. Nancy Lord, Anchorage Daily News, "47 years apart, a mother and daughter’s Arctic memoirs complete each other," 28 Jan. 2018 And so this French team is following a similar path, focusing without apology on pragmatism and bottom-line results. Brian Straus,, "Le Bleuprint: France Follows Familiar World Cup Path in Reaching Final," 10 July 2018 Confrontation of all kinds is the movie’s unifying theme, tying personal to political and private to public in a story energized by the detailed memory and staunch pragmatism of its subject. Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times, "Review: In ‘The Other Side of Everything,’ a Belgrade Apartment Symbolizes Upheaval," 12 July 2018 Fromm’s pragmatism comes from a lot of years of living very cheaply in a very expensive city. Sam Whiting,, "Artist’s life: Emily Fromm, painter of urban landscapes," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pragmatism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of pragmatism

circa 1864, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for pragmatism

see pragmatic

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pragmatism

Share pragmatism

Statistics for pragmatism

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pragmatism

The first known use of pragmatism was circa 1864

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pragmatism



English Language Learners Definition of pragmatism

: a reasonable and logical way of doing things or of thinking about problems that is based on dealing with specific situations instead of on ideas and theories

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on pragmatism

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


by force of circumstances

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!