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[ahy-dee-uh-liz-uh m] /aɪˈdi əˌlɪz əm/
the cherishing or pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc.
the practice of idealizing.
something idealized; an ideal representation.
Fine Arts. treatment of subject matter in a work of art in which a mental conception of beauty or form is stressed, characterized usually by the selection of particular features of various models and their combination into a whole according to a standard of perfection.
Compare naturalism (def 2), realism (def 3a).
  1. any system or theory that maintains that the real is of the nature of thought or that the object of external perception consists of ideas.
  2. the tendency to represent things in an ideal form, or as they might or should be rather than as they are, with emphasis on values.
Origin of idealism
1790-1800; ideal + -ism, probably modeled on German Idealismus
Related forms
anti-idealism, noun
overidealism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for idealisms
Historical Examples
  • Let us beware how we extinguish the feeblest of youth's idealisms.

    The Young Man and the World Albert J. Beveridge
  • Indeed, his philosophy is generally classed amongst the idealisms.

    Rudolph Eucken

    Abel J. Jones
  • Losing sight of his idealisms, nineteenth-century man evolved a thoroughly materialistic philosophy.

  • This difference is paralleled by the nature of the idealisms to which the two proofs are opposed and which they profess to refute.

  • The photographer was a man of whims and idealisms; his wife had a strong vein of worldly ambition.

    New Grub Street George Gissing
  • These idealisms have recognized the genuineness of connexions and the impotency of "feeling."

    Creative Intelligence John Dewey, Addison W. Moore, Harold Chapman Brown, George H. Mead, Boyd H. Bode, Henry Waldgrave, Stuart James, Hayden Tufts, Horace M. Kallen
  • Once more, Spinoza's solution is typical, and its form is that of all idealisms as well.

    Creative Intelligence John Dewey, Addison W. Moore, Harold Chapman Brown, George H. Mead, Boyd H. Bode, Henry Waldgrave, Stuart James, Hayden Tufts, Horace M. Kallen
  • Will the eternal silence make mock of his dreams and his idealisms, laugh coldly at 'the splendid purpose in his eyes'?

    Prose Fancies (Second Series) Richard Le Gallienne
  • Those who heard him felt how superior his position was, both in rigour and in force, to the prevailing inversions and idealisms.

    Winds Of Doctrine George Santayana
  • Like other idealisms, patriotism varies from a noble devotion to a moral lunacy.

    Painted Windows Harold Begbie
British Dictionary definitions for idealisms


belief in or pursuance of ideals
the tendency to represent things in their ideal forms, rather than as they are
any of a group of philosophical doctrines that share the monistic view that material objects and the external world do not exist in reality independently of the human mind but are variously creations of the mind or constructs of ideas Compare materialism (sense 2), dualism (sense 2)
Derived Forms
idealist, noun
idealistic, adjective
idealistically, 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 idealisms



1796, in the abstract sense, originally "belief that reality is made up only of ideas," from ideal (adj.) + -ism; on model of French idéalisme. Meaning "representing things in an ideal form" is from 1829.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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idealisms in Culture

idealism definition

An approach to philosophy that regards mind, spirit, or ideas as the most fundamental kinds of reality, or at least as governing our experience of the ordinary objects in the world. Idealism is opposed to materialism, naturalism, and realism. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was an idealist; so was Immanuel Kant.

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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