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[fuhngk-shuh-nl] /ˈfʌŋk ʃə nl/
of or relating to a function or functions:
functional difficulties in the administration.
capable of operating or functioning:
When will the ventilating system be functional again?
having or serving a utilitarian purpose; capable of serving the purpose for which it was designed:
functional architecture; a chair that is functional as well as decorative.
Also, functionalistic. (of a building or furnishing) constructed or made according to the principles of functionalism or primarily as a direct fulfillment of a material need.
Medicine/Medical. without a known organic cause or structural change:
a functional disorder.
Compare organic (def 5).
pertaining to an algebraic operation:
a functional symbol.
Linguistics. (of linguistic analysis, language teaching, etc.) concerned with the communicative role of language rather than, in addition to, or as the framework for its formal structure.
Mathematics. a function that has a domain whose elements are functions, sets, or the like, and that assumes numerical values.
Origin of functional
First recorded in 1625-35; function + -al1
Related forms
functionality, noun
functionally, adverb
hyperfunctional, adjective
hyperfunctionally, adverb
multifunctional, adjective
nonfunctional, adjective
nonfunctionally, adverb
prefunctional, adjective
semifunctional, adjective
semifunctionally, adverb
subfunctional, adjective
subfunctionally, adverb
superfunctional, adjective
unfunctional, adjective
unfunctionally, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for functional
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Subjectively determined sensuous processes are diseases in civilization, but normal, functional methods in savagery.

  • Hence the functional basis is preferred in all cases in which it can be applied.

    The Classification of Patents United States Patent Office
  • These ideas must have done much to offset the physical weakness and functional handicaps of women in the ancient world.

  • In biology it is more akin to the formal than to the functional attitude.

    Form and Function E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell
  • Form is then not something fixed and congealed—it is the ever-changing manifestation of functional activity.

    Form and Function E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell
British Dictionary definitions for functional


of, involving, or containing a function or functions
practical rather than decorative; utilitarian: functional architecture
capable of functioning; working
(med) affecting a function of an organ without structural change
  1. relating to the purpose or context of a behaviour
  2. denoting a psychosis such as schizophrenia assumed not to have a direct organic cause, like deterioration or poisoning of the brain Compare organic psychosis
(maths) a function whose domain is a set of functions and whose range is a set of functions or a set of numbers
Derived Forms
functionally, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for functional

1630s; as a term in architecture, "utilitarian," 1928; see function (n.) + -al (1). Related: Functionally; functionality.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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functional in Medicine

functional func·tion·al (fŭngk'shə-nəl)

  1. Of or relating to a function.

  2. Affecting the physiological function but not the structure.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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functional in Science
Affecting bodily functions but not organic structure, as a disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome. Compare organic.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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