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 Both trends are born more of political pragmatism than dogma. New York Times, "In Israeli Election, a Chance for Arabs to Gain Influence, or Lose It," 21 Feb. 2021 This resolution was a matter of political pragmatism rather than hard science. New York Times, "A Secret War. Decades of Suffering. Will the U.S. Ever Make Good in Laos?," 16 Mar. 2021 Springtime is the right time to daydream, but with the Sun moving into heedless Aries by the end of the week, a dash of pragmatism can keep a good trip from going off the rails. Gala Mukomolova,, "Your Horoscope This Week: March 14, 2021," 14 Mar. 2021 Both trends are born more of political pragmatism than dogma. Adam Rasgon,, "In Israeli election, a chance for Arabs to gain influence — or lose it," 22 Feb. 2021 His great strength as a critic was his pragmatism, his commitment to assess the performance in front of him on its own terms while casting a skeptical eye at gimmickry. New York Times, "Peter G. Davis, Music Critic of Wide Knowledge and Wit, Dies at 84," 19 Feb. 2021 Mélanie Joly, Canada's minister of economic development, who is responsible for tourism, said keeping the borders closed was a matter of pragmatism. Dan Bilefsky, Star Tribune, "Canada misses American tourist money, but sees some upside," 14 Feb. 2021 Throughout his career, Shultz was admired for loyalty, pragmatism and levelheadedness. Matthew Lee, ajc, "George Shultz wasn't 'afraid to struggle against the odds'," 7 Feb. 2021 This pragmatism, born of necessity, will always be in fashion. Michael Kimmage, The New Republic, "How Biden Can Achieve a Russian Restoration," 26 Jan. 2021

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

2 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pragmatism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pragmatism



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

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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