prag·​ma·​tism | \ ˈprag-mə-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce pragmatism (audio) \

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 How to pronounce pragmatism (audio) \ adjective or noun
pragmatistic \ ˌprag-​mə-​ˈti-​stik How to pronounce pragmatism (audio) \ 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 At its core, Brexit represents a triumph for those within the Conservative Party who have fundamentally changed the nation’s calculations of where its interests lie, a triumph over the pragmatism for which Britons once prized themselves. New York Times, "The Brexit Fight, Through a Reporter’s Prism of a Changed Continent," 26 Dec. 2020 The philosophy in Clay is pragmatism, which means assistance comes with the understanding that resources can be abused. Maddie Mcgarvey, History & Culture, "In West Virginia, finding your next meal can be a community effort," 18 Dec. 2020 The recent episode has enforced a sense of pragmatism within the program, however. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Ohio State football coach Ryan Day on his coronavirus diagnosis: ‘I felt like I let people down’," 10 Dec. 2020 Even more than expected, Mr Biden’s choices reflected a stress on unflashy expertise, pragmatism and personal loyalty. The Economist, "Joe Biden unveils a reassuringly familiar national-security team," 28 Nov. 2020 Mainers largely have embraced Collins' call for pragmatism since sending her to the Senate in 1997. Fox News, "'She knows Maine': How Susan Collins defied Democrats," 14 Nov. 2020 In Congress, Bass earned a reputation for her pragmatism and unassuming style and for being a team player who does not seek the limelight. Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times, "One of these people could be Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ successor and California’s next senator," 7 Nov. 2020 During the primaries, Mr. Biden rebuffed pressure to move to the left, believing his party would embrace his pragmatism as its best chance to beat Mr. Trump. Jonathan Martin, New York Times, "How Joe Biden Won the Presidency," 7 Nov. 2020 Her major refuge is a kind of therapeutic pragmatism. James Wood, The New Yorker, "Does Knowing God Just Take Practice?," 2 Nov. 2020

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

Time Traveler for pragmatism

Time Traveler

The first known use of pragmatism was circa 1864

See more words from the same year

Statistics for pragmatism

Last Updated

8 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pragmatism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pragmatism


How to pronounce pragmatism (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pragmatism

formal : 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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Words of Snow and Ice Quiz

  • image1037863653
  • Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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