noun, often capitalized
re·​al·​po·​li·​tik | \ rā-ˈäl-ˌpō-li-ˌtēk How to pronounce realpolitik (audio) \

Definition of realpolitik

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

Examples of realpolitik in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Many liberals said the moral imperative of barring Prince Mohammed from future visits to the United States, at a minimum, should outweigh the familiar realpolitik of preserving relations with the Saudi kingdom. Michael Crowley, New York Times, 18 Mar. 2021 As the afterglow of the inaugural shift fades, the realpolitik of domestic and diplomatic pressures has already begun to reemerge. Daniel Hernandez, Los Angeles Times, 27 Jan. 2021 This preference for realpolitik over idealism chimes with her previous work. Washington Post, 13 Nov. 2020 The rocket program is a neat metaphor, if a little obvious, for the corruption of all that is most admirable about human initiative: of scientific wonder by realpolitik; of the impulse to learn by the urge to destroy. Toby Lichtig, WSJ, 12 Nov. 2020 López Obrador, a longtime standard-bearer of Mexico’s left, has adopted a sort of tropical realpolitik with his country’s largest trading partner, acquiescing to Trump’s demands to limit migration. Kevin Sieff, Washington Post, 6 July 2020 Without any histrionics or posturing, Varma nails the character’s blend of idealism and realpolitik, compassion and trepidation. Mike Hale, New York Times, 10 Feb. 2020 No doubt, Trump and his supporters would like to frame this mindset as some sort of realpolitik, a grim but realistic acceptance of how the world works. Kevin Baker, Harper's Magazine, 27 Apr. 2020 This alternate timeline does not ignore realpolitik. Zeynep Tufekci, The Atlantic, 16 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for realpolitik

Time Traveler

The first known use of realpolitik was in 1895

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Dictionary Entries Near realpolitik

real part



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Cite this Entry

“Realpolitik.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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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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