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[fuhngk-shuh-nl-iz-uh m] /ˈfʌŋk ʃə nlˌɪz əm/
(usually initial capital letter) Chiefly Architecture, Furniture.
  1. a design movement evolved from several previous movements or schools in Europe in the early 20th century, advocating the design of buildings, furnishings, etc., as direct fulfillments of material requirements, as for shelter, repose, or the serving of food, with the construction, materials, and purpose clearly expressed or at least not denied, and with aesthetic effect derived chiefly from proportions and finish, purely decorative effects being excluded or greatly subordinated.
  2. the doctrines and practices associated with this movement.
    Compare rationalism (def 4).
Psychology. the doctrine that emphasizes the adaptiveness of the mental or behavioral processes.
Sociology.. Also called structural functionalism. a theoretical orientation that views society as a system of interdependent parts whose functions contribute to the stability and survival of the system.
Origin of functionalism
First recorded in 1910-15; functional + -ism
Related forms
semifunctionalism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for functionalism
Historical Examples
  • In this final chapter, it is proposed to deal with the question of the positive value of functionalism as a working hypothesis.

    John Dewey's logical theory Delton Thomas Howard
  • Commercialism is simply a label for functionalism, and all great artists produce functional art.

    The Ego Machine Henry Kuttner
British Dictionary definitions for functionalism


the theory of design that the form of a thing should be determined by its use
any doctrine that stresses utility or purpose
(psychol) a system of thought based on the premise that all mental processes derive from their usefulness to the organism in adapting to the environment
Derived Forms
functionalist, noun, adjective
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 functionalism

1914 as a term in social sciences; 1930 in architecture; from functional + -ism. Related: functionalist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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functionalism in Culture

functionalism definition

An approach to architecture that adapts the design of a building or other structure to its future use. Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe were notable advocates of functionalism in the twentieth century.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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