util·​i·​tar·​i·​an | \ (ˌ)yü-ˌti-lə-ˈter-ē-ən How to pronounce utilitarian (audio) \

Definition of utilitarian

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: an advocate or adherent of utilitarianism



Definition of utilitarian (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of or relating to or advocating utilitarianism
2 : marked by utilitarian views or practices
3a : of, relating to, or aiming at utility
b : exhibiting or preferring mere utility spare utilitarian furnishings

Examples of utilitarian in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Consequentialists—including utilitarians, the most famous kind—are concerned with the outcomes and consequences of actions first and foremost. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "Enough With the Trolley Problem," 30 Mar. 2018 Besides, as long as these readers really are utilitarians and not Kantians, there’s nothing to stop them from quietly resubscribing in a month or two. Will Oremus, Slate Magazine, "New York Times," 1 May 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

There's something utilitarian about it, like an army-navy store. Blake Brunson, House Beautiful, "Miles Redd on Decorating a Bold and Colorful Family Home," 10 Nov. 2014 But no matter the crowd, the trench stays true to its elegant and utilitarian roots. Max Berlinger, GQ, "The Best Trench Coats Are Sophisticated, Slouchy, and Classic All at the Same Time," 7 Mar. 2018 Here, festive tie-dye and utilitarian fishing jackets mingle at restaurants serving the day’s catch alongside jaw-dropping ocean overlooks. Sunset, "One Perfect Day in Fort Bragg, CA," 22 Jan. 2018 The kitchen island is one of those home elements that seems to have known its purpose from its inception: a utilitarian divider between kitchen and family zones, the heart of the home. Kim Cook, The Seattle Times, "The latest innovations for kitchen islands," 19 Feb. 2019 Bach’s cantatas, exalted as some of them seem, were utilitarian creations. James R. Oestreich, New York Times, "What Does It Mean to Play the ‘Best’ of Bach?," 22 June 2018 The study’s authors worried that mandating utilitarian AVs—those that would swerve to avoid a crowd—through federal regulation would present a confounding problem: passengers would never agree to be rationally self-sacrificing. Betsy Morais, Longreads, "The Menace and the Promise of Autonomous Vehicles," 13 June 2018 Nevertheless, two of the most charming works here feel more decorative than utilitarian. Barrymore Laurence Scherer, WSJ, "‘Masterpieces of French Faience: Selections From the Sidney R. Knafel Collection’ Review: Not Dishwasher Safe," 1 Jan. 2019 But there is little sense in the exhibition of the values and virtues that give a city its higher meaning, beyond the utilitarian functions of roads, water and sewage. Michael J. Lewis, WSJ, "‘The Road Ahead: Reimagining Mobility’ Review: Future Imperfect," 10 Jan. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'utilitarian.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of utilitarian


circa 1780, in the meaning defined above


1802, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about utilitarian

Statistics for utilitarian

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for utilitarian

The first known use of utilitarian was circa 1780

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for utilitarian



English Language Learners Definition of utilitarian

: made to be useful rather than to be decorative or comfortable
philosophy : of or relating to utilitarianism

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on utilitarian

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with utilitarian

Spanish Central: Translation of utilitarian

Nglish: Translation of utilitarian for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of utilitarian for Arabic Speakers

Comments on utilitarian

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


likely to have or produce good results

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!