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

Sorry to Bother You, Tessa Thompson’s latest, is pure magical realism., "July Click List: R29 Entertainment Editors' Picks For The Month," 2 July 2018 Dou sought to imitate life closely in his paintings and to delight the viewer through the deceptive character of their apparent realism. Arthur Wheelock, WSJ, "Well-Worn Life, Frozen In Time," 19 Oct. 2018 That wasn’t the first or even second time Nagy has balanced his excitement about the offense publicly with realism about an extended timeline for building it. Rich Campbell,, "Excitement about Bears' new offense should embrace a realistic timeline," 31 May 2018 But Tamirat feels free to cut across boundaries, blending surreal suspense with psychological realism. Amy Weiss-meyer, The Atlantic, "The Deft Inventions of The Parking Lot Attendant," 4 Apr. 2018 Still, the game's attempts at realism can at times obfuscate some narrative choices and arbitrarily deny others. Daniel Starkey, Ars Technica, "Red Dead Redemption II review: Getting muddy in the wide-open frontier," 25 Oct. 2018 Unlike Thomas Hart Benton and other artists of the Regionalist movement who dominated American art in the ’30s and ’40s, the Surrealists generally avoided straightforward realism. Michael Fitzgerald, WSJ, "‘Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s’ Review: Our Irrationality Laid Bare," 22 Oct. 2018 The glittery excess and dramatic storylines of Gossip Girl never leaned heavily into realism. Veronica Walsingham, Teen Vogue, "Brett Kavanaugh, Chuck Bass, and How "Gossip Girl" Portrayed Sexual Violence Within the World of Prep School Privilege," 5 Oct. 2018 Oz is the quintessential prison program, but never got acknowledged for its powerful performances and gritty realism by the nominating committee. Chelsea Hassler, Vogue, "The Most Outrageous Snubs in Emmy History," 17 Sep. 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

14 Dec 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).


marked by shyness and lack of polish

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