ra·​tio·​nal·​ize | \ ˈrash-nə-ˌlīz How to pronounce rationalize (audio) , ˈra-shə-nə-ˌlīz\
rationalized; rationalizing; rationalizes

Definition of rationalize

transitive verb

1 : to bring into accord with reason or cause something to seem reasonable: such as
a : to substitute a natural for a supernatural explanation of rationalize a myth
b : to attribute (one's actions) to rational and creditable motives without analysis of true and especially unconscious motives rationalized his dislike of his brother broadly : to create an excuse or more attractive explanation for rationalize the problem
2 : to free (a mathematical expression) from irrational parts rationalize a denominator
3 : to apply research-based managerial principles to (something, such as an industry or its operations) for increased productivity and efficiency

intransitive verb

: to provide plausible but untrue reasons for conduct

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Other Words from rationalize

rationalizable \ ˌrash-​nə-​ˈlī-​zə-​bəl How to pronounce rationalizable (audio) , ˌra-​shə-​nə-​ˈlī-​ \ adjective
rationalizer \ ˈrash-​nə-​ˌlī-​zər How to pronounce rationalizer (audio) , ˈra-​shə-​nə-​ˌlī-​ \ noun, plural rationalizers

Examples of rationalize in a Sentence

She tried to rationalize her grandson's strange behavior by blaming it on the boy's father. He couldn't rationalize buying such an expensive car. She knows she shouldn't have done it—she's just trying to rationalize. Management is thinking of ways to rationalize our system of production.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Somehow, carrying a gun is rationalized as a better option than depending on police for protection and safety. Randy Blaser, chicagotribune.com, "Column: The shooting death of a 14-year-old was a tragedy. What does it say about us as a society?," 23 Aug. 2019 Still, most racers embrace the super tuck, rationalizing that to pedal professionally is to crash. Michael Powell, New York Times, "Cycling Embraces Risk, Reward and the Super Tuck," 23 July 2019 Typically, the behavior is excused or rationalized along the way by those in positions to directly challenge it and correct the problem. Seattle Times Staff, The Seattle Times, "‘We pay for congestion one way or the other’: Some of the best comments this week on seattletimes.com," 19 July 2019 The industry might need to be rationalized to survive. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, "In praise of the messy, misunderstood masterpiece (and in search of the next one)," 25 July 2019 All frivolities, such as politics and culture, would be deemed unessential, and life would be rationalized and run on principles of industrial efficiency. Philip Delves Broughton, WSJ, "‘Digital Cash’ Review: Bitcoin and Beyond," 23 June 2019 How many of these new adaptations earn enough money to rationalize even one sequel, let alone a franchise? Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Men in Black' and the Battle Between Nostalgia and Fatigue," 15 June 2019 For the Pelicans, perhaps the best way to rationalize trading down from No. 4 was to take a big swing on upside, which became Jaxson Hayes at No. Jeremy Woo, SI.com, "10 NBA Draft Thoughts: Bol Bol's Big Fall, Value Picks, and What to Expect in the Future," 21 June 2019 Fox’s spin on the North Korean cult of great-leader genius that rationalizes every personal and political excess of Kim Jong Un as a spontaneous reflection of the masses’ own revolutionary desire. David Roth, The New Republic, "Making sense of Donald Trump's petulant reign," 12 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rationalize.' 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 rationalize

1665, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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Statistics for rationalize

Last Updated

30 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for rationalize

The first known use of rationalize was in 1665

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More Definitions for rationalize



English Language Learners Definition of rationalize

: to think about or describe something (such as bad behavior) in a way that explains it and makes it seem proper, more attractive, etc.
chiefly British : to find ways to make (something, such as an industry, a company, etc.) waste less time, effort, and money


ra·​tio·​nal·​ize | \ ˈra-shə-nə-ˌlīz How to pronounce rationalize (audio) \
rationalized; rationalizing

Kids Definition of rationalize

: to find an excuse for something that seems reasonable or believable He tried to rationalize his foolish purchase.


variants: also British rationalise \ ˈrash-​nə-​ˌlīz, -​ən-​ᵊl-​ˌīz How to pronounce rationalise (audio) \
rationalized also British rationalised; rationalizing also British rationalising

Medical Definition of rationalize

transitive verb

: to bring into accord with reason or cause something to seem reasonable especially : to attribute (one's actions) to rational and creditable motives without analysis of true and especially unconscious motives he tried to rationalize his cruel behavior

intransitive verb

: to provide plausible but untrue reasons for conduct

Other Words from rationalize

rationalizer also British rationaliser \ -​ər How to pronounce rationaliser (audio) \ noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on rationalize

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rationalize

Spanish Central: Translation of rationalize

Nglish: Translation of rationalize for Spanish Speakers

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