re·al·ism | \ˈrē-ə-ˌli-zəm \

Definition of realism 

1 : concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary

2a : a doctrine that universals exist outside the mind specifically : the conception that an abstract term names an independent and unitary reality

b : a theory that objects of sense perception or cognition exist independently of the mind — compare nominalism

3 : the theory or practice of fidelity in art and literature to nature or to real life and to accurate representation without idealization

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Other Words from realism

realist \ˈrē-ə-list \ adjective or noun
realistic \ˌrē-ə-ˈli-stik \ adjective
realistically \ˌrē-ə-ˈli-sti-k(ə-)lē \ adverb

Examples of realism in a Sentence

He has a sense of realism about what can be done to improve the economy. The realism of her dream was alarming. the stark realism of the play
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Recent Examples on the Web

The director's background in documentaries is a bonus here, grounding the film's more fanciful magic-realism elements in cool-headed, observational naturalism. Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Volcano': Film Review | Karlovy Vary 2018," 13 July 2018 Having prepared the ingredients for an epic, Mr. Gessen has fashioned another work of narrow confessional realism that trucks in mundane observations and rueful ironies—something that feels, unfortunately, very American indeed. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: Young and Privileged and Perpetually at Sea," 5 July 2018 The absurdity of that setup can feel curiously at odds with the sense of realism that infuses much of the play, as Sam’s friends and fans come around to hang out and question and cajole him. James Hebert,, "Cygnet's rap-informed 'The Wind and the Breeze' finds meditative rhythms," 20 May 2018 Many are three-dimensional: Cut-out butterflies are attached to paintings of flowers; colorful feathers are attached to drawings of birds; and masks made from multiple layers of paper provide startling realism. Mary Jane Brewer,, "H.G. Blake Elementary School student artwork displayed at Medina Library," 21 Apr. 2018 Technology The technology behind modern virtual reality is rapidly evolving, but what exactly helps create a better sense of realism and immersion? Wired Staff, WIRED, "12 Killer Deals on Google Devices, Amazon Echo, and Headphones We Love," 6 June 2018 The graphic nature of how pain and suffering is presented enables the film to achieve a unique degree of realism and urgency, reaching emotional depths unmatched by any other X-Men film. Ciara Wardlow, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Deadpool 2': Mutants Were Always Meant to Be This Way," 22 May 2018 Smil's realism appeals to Gates, who first mentioned Smil on his blog in 2010. Paul Voosen, Science | AAAS, "Meet Vaclav Smil, the man who has quietly shaped how the world thinks about energy," 21 Mar. 2018 The cinematography by Sara Mishara, which goes for a sense of realism, is distractingly dark. Katie Walsh, Detroit Free Press, "Review: Road movie ‘Boundaries’ travels well-worn path," 6 July 2018

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

1817, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for realism

Last Updated

19 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for realism

The first known use of realism was in 1817

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More Definitions for realism



English Language Learners Definition of realism

: the quality of a person who understands what is real and possible in a particular situation and is able to deal with problems in an effective and practical way

: the quality of being very much like real life : the quality of seeming to be real

: a style of art or literature that shows or describes people and things as they are in real life


re·al·ism | \ˈrē-ə-ˌli-zəm \

Kids Definition of realism

: willingness to face facts or to give in to what is necessary

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Comments on realism

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


one that holds something together

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