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 rationalize (audio) , ˌra-​shə-​nə-​ˈlī-​ \ adjective
rationalizer \ ˈrash-​nə-​ˌlī-​zər How to pronounce rationalize (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 There are many ways to rationalize the Portland Trail Blazers’ poor showing during Sunday’s 109-101 loss at the Charlotte Hornets. oregonlive, "Portland Trail Blazers have a myriad of issues to fix during final stretch of season," 19 Apr. 2021 Today's prohibitionists deny racist intent but rationalize racist results. Marcus Harcus And Oliver Steinberg, Star Tribune, "Counterpoint: Legalization of marijuana doesn't lead to tyranny," 18 Apr. 2021 Soldiers rationalize, deny, deceive and self-deceive, and engage in motivated reasoning and wishful thinking to win the battle of beliefs. Michael Shermer, WSJ, "‘The Scout Mindset’ Review: How to ‘Update’ Beliefs," 13 Apr. 2021 Since this insecurity is lessened if the decision is made quickly and with little opposition, the group might easily rationalize a decision with minimal amount of dissent. Avi Dan, Forbes, "Was The VW April Fools’ Debacle The Result Of ‘Groupthink?’," 5 Apr. 2021 The real mystery is why some people will go to any end to rationalize state violence against Black bodies. Charles M. Blow New York Times, Star Tribune, "The state of the movement: Black Lives Matter," 8 Mar. 2021 That allowed the patron saint of the modern GOP (and his successors) to rationalize massive tax cuts for the rich. Yvonne Abraham, BostonGlobe.com, "Lessons that a 7-year-old girl can teach today’s Republicans," 6 Mar. 2021 Acknowledge your feelings and feel them all the way through without trying to rationalize them away. Tarot Astrologers, chicagotribune.com, "Daily horoscope for February 28, 2021," 28 Feb. 2021 Allow an open and free marketplace in health care and pricing will rationalize. WSJ, "On the Very Wide Variation in Medical Costs," 19 Feb. 2021

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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Time Traveler for rationalize

Time Traveler

The first known use of rationalize was in 1665

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Statistics for rationalize

Last Updated

29 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rationalize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rationalize. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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 rationalize (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 rationalize (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on rationalize

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rationalize

Nglish: Translation of rationalize for Spanish Speakers

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