noun, often capitalized
re·​al·​po·​li·​tik | \rā-ˈäl-ˌpō-li-ˌtēk \

Definition of realpolitik 

: politics based on practical and material factors rather than on theoretical or ethical objectives

Examples of realpolitik in a Sentence

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But traditionally this realpolitik has been combined with efforts to bring non-nuclear powers into accord with the international non-proliferation regime, as with the Iran deal. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Is This the Dawn of a New Era of Nuclear Proliferation?," 15 May 2018 In private, Kremlin insiders say that Moscow prefers dealing with Republican presidents, who ordinarily prize realpolitik above liberal democratic values. Anna Arutunyan, Time, "No Matter What Happens in Helsinki, Putin Has Already Won," 10 July 2018 Both Petraeus and Crocker seemed caught by surprise by this realpolitik reckoning, and Obama received kudos in the media for his smarts. Newsweek, "Analysis," 14 Mar. 2018 Note of realpolitik Egypt, Jordan, and Afghanistan are all major recipients of US assistance, and all voted for the resolution condemning the United States. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, "In overwhelming UN vote on Jerusalem, a reality test for Trump's tough talk," 23 Dec. 2017 And Schlesinger quickly became an isolated figure in J.F.K.’s White House, unable to supplant Theodore Sorensen as lead speechwriter and uncomfortable with the reigning ethos of realpolitik in foreign affairs. Michael Kazin, New York Times, "A Liberal Historian’s Imprint on Mid-Century America," 2 Nov. 2017 In the world of realpolitik, some powers may value their ties with Burma more than those with Bangladesh and choose to look aside as the Burmese government carries out crimes against humanity. Kazi Nabil Ahmed, WSJ, "Bangladesh’s Borders Are Open to Burma’s Rohingya Refugees," 21 Sep. 2017 During this period, the party demonstrated a skill for realpolitik that Debs and Thomas were incapable of. Jeet Heer, New Republic, "Sibling Rivalry," 18 Oct. 2017 Kurdish leaders are well aware that realpolitik, not ideals, will determine the success of their independence bid, said Morgan L. Kaplan, a political scientist who studies the Kurdish independence movement. Max Fisher And Amanda Taub, New York Times, "Catalans and Kurds Discover the Hard Truth About Secession," 29 Sep. 2017

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

1895, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for realpolitik

German, from real actual + Politik politics

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Last Updated

1 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for realpolitik

The first known use of realpolitik was in 1895

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English Language Learners Definition of realpolitik

: a system of politics based on a country's situation and its needs rather than on ideas about what is morally right and wrong

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


obstinately defiant of authority

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