ra·​tio·​nal·​i·​za·​tion ˌrash-nə-lə-ˈzā-shən How to pronounce rationalization (audio)
plural rationalizations
: the act, process, or result of rationalizing : a way of describing, interpreting, or explaining something (such as bad behavior) that makes it seem proper, more attractive, etc.
They're masters of high-speed sophistry and self-serving rationalizations, and they threaten one another as if the power of threats lies mainly in how elegantly expressed they are …Nitsuh Abebe
But that's a convenient rationalization that removes from the rest of us the onus for doing the right thing even when the wrong thing is alluring and nobody would blame you for it.Leonard Pitts, Jr.
People rationalize what they shun or are incapable of dealing with; these superstitions and their rationalizations become ritual as they govern behavior.Ralph Ellison
Importantly, these perceptions of victimhood were automatic and effortless, not belabored rationalizations.Kurt Gray and Chelsea Schein

Examples of rationalization in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The former president’s supporters maintain that the bad odor about their movement’s avatar is a fabrication — a superficial and silly rationalization wielded by his enemies to tarnish his record in office. Noah Rothman, National Review, 15 Jan. 2024 The last two are cynical rationalizations concocted long ago by Southern propagandists to whitewash unpleasant truth. Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, Sun Sentinel, 2 Jan. 2024 So is this a genuine Christmas miracle or an amusing academic exercise in creative rationalization? Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 20 Dec. 2023 The rationalizations demanded of someone who would try to synthesize these incompatible thoughts are exhausting. Noah Rothman, National Review, 20 Dec. 2023 Awe that the internet itself was being shaken to its foundations by this thing that three young hackers had built in a flurry of adolescent emotions, whims, rivalries, rationalizations, and mistakes. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, 14 Nov. 2023 There is no justification or rationalization for Hamas’ actions. Carly Thomas, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Oct. 2023 Mahmood’s employers/enablers, generally without remorse, are let off without overt judgment, allowed to quietly dig their own graves with claims of journalistic tenacity and casual, everyone-is-fair-game rationalization. Chris Vognar, Rolling Stone, 25 Sep. 2023 Companies are now paying a lot of attention to digital rationalization and cloud management, including both the technology and related services. Peter Bendor-Samuel, Forbes, 9 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rationalization.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1846, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of rationalization was in 1846

Dictionary Entries Near rationalization

Cite this Entry

“Rationalization.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rationalization. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Medical Definition


variants also British rationalisation
: the act, process, or result of rationalizing
especially : the provision of plausible reasons to explain to oneself or others behavior for which one's real motives are different and unknown or unconscious
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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