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 But that doesn’t rationalize ignoring Alabama and Florida. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "Ohio State football still owes us an Alabama showdown, but playing Georgia isn’t bad," 7 Nov. 2019 That’s the brusque bromide that football fans utter to justify and rationalize the pain and abuse that NFL players subject their bodies to in the name of wealth, fame, and entertainment. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "Booing Andrew Luck crossed the line," 31 Aug. 2019 That last bit of rationalizing ignores the obvious: This is not a court of law. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Doc's Morning Line: 12 years later, how do we feel about Barry Bonds' home run legacy?," 7 Aug. 2019 Driven by the need to find more men guilty — and rationalized by a #BelieveWomen ideology — campus administrators have systematically discarded every fundamental notion of due process in American law. David French, National Review, "Amy Coney Barrett Strikes a Blow against Campus Kangaroo Courts," 2 July 2019 The release of the NOAA statement provoked complaints that the Trump administration was improperly intruding in the professional weather forecasting system to rationalize an inaccurate presidential assertion. Peter Baker, New York Times, "Trump Pressed Top Aide to Have Weather Service ‘Clarify’ Forecast That Contradicted Trump," 11 Sep. 2019 Over the centuries, some scholars have bent over backward to rationalize such anomalies, while others have voiced suspicions that the date must be incorrect. Chiara Goia, Smithsonian, "The New Treasures of Pompeii," 21 Aug. 2019 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

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

11 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for rationalize

The first known use of rationalize was in 1665

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More Definitions for rationalize


How to pronounce rationalize (audio)

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

Comments on rationalize

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


not being in agreement or harmony

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