- a person who cherishes or pursues high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc.
- a visionary or impractical person.
- a person who represents things as they might or should be rather than as they are: My friend is an idealist, who somehow thinks that we always agree.
- a writer or artist who treats subjects imaginatively.
- a person who accepts the doctrines of philosophical idealism, as by representing things in an ideal form, or as they might or should be rather than as they are.
- of or relating to idealism or idealists; idealistic.
Origin of idealist
Ideal comes from the Late Latin word ideālis, which means “existing as an idea or archetype.” The earliest recorded use of idealist in English occurs in 1701 in philosopher John Norris’s Essay toward the Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible World, in which he references the Greek philosopher Plato’s “theory of forms.” Plato had posited that everything we perceive is actually a representation of ideal things, but not the things themselves. Idealism gained popularity in various guises in the 18th-century works of philosophers such as Berkeley, Kant, and Hegel.
By the start of the 19th century, the meaning of idealist broadened to describe artists or writers who treated subjects with imagination, in contrast to a naturalist or realist, who depicted a real-world atmosphere in their art. A few decades later, the term was applied to visionaries, and soon after to people who were so imbued with an ideal that they failed to see the world for what it is. Today, the word can be a two-edged sword: if a person calls herself an idealist she very likely means it positively, as in the pursuit of a higher good. However, if somebody else calls her an idealist, that person can mean that she is impractical or naive.
—Idealist.org: a job-search website that connects people who want to work or volunteer their services with not-for-profit organizations.
- "Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American."-President Woodrow Wilson in a speech at Sioux Falls, North Dakota (delivered September 8, 1919)
- "I am idealist. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way."-Carl Sandburg Incidentals (1907)
- "An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it is also more nourishing."-H. L. Mencken A little Book in C Major (1916)
- "The idealist is incorrigible: if he is expelled from his heaven, he makes an ideal out of hell."-Friedrich Nietzsche Mixed Opinions and Maxims, aphorism 23 (1879)
Examples from the Web for idealist
He was a dreamer, an idealist, grounded in the reality he observed around him.Mario Cuomo, Always Moving Us Toward the Light
January 4, 2015
It is not an idealist, not a romantic call to ethics of conviction as opposed to ethics of responsibility.Liberals Need to Learn to Say No
July 10, 2014
He was an “idealist and a realist at the same time,” said his close friend, the British Diplomat Frank Roberts.The Man Who Knew Russia Best: George Kennan’s Revealing Diaries
James A. Warren
March 10, 2014
“It is an ideological—no, not ideological, but I am an idealist still, and I think that I can win,” he said.Prankster or Politician? Jay Stamper Says His S.C. Senate Bid Is Real
October 29, 2013
“The Idealist” Justin Peters, Slate Aaron Swartz wanted to save the world.The Week’s Best Longreads for February 9, 2013
February 9, 2013
Idealism was not very popular, he said, but thank God he was an idealist.The Foolish Lovers
St. John G. Ervine
It was the pure love of the idealist and the dreamer––it was divine.A Breath of Prairie and other stories
“The external world,” says the Materialist––“Does not exist,” says the Idealist.The Book of Khalid
Keziah, in spite of her worldly common sense, was an idealist at heart.Keziah Coffin
Joseph C. Lincoln
Even our open-eyed Jewish idealist has been blest with ignorance of the actual.Dreamers of the Ghetto
Word Origin and History for idealist
It seems even incredible, that any Idealist in any age could forget himself so far as to run his head against a post, merely because he found in his system, that no external world does exist, and that therefore nothing could be without to hurt him. [F.A. Nitsch, "A General and Introductory View of Professor Kant's Principles," 1796]
Earlier still, "one who holds doctrines of philosophical idealism" (1701).