[ fuhngk-shuh-nl-iz-uhm ]

  1. (usually initial capital letter)Chiefly Architecture, Furniture.

    • 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.

    • the doctrines and practices associated with this movement.: Compare rationalism (def. 4).

  2. Psychology. the doctrine that emphasizes the adaptiveness of the mental or behavioral processes.

  1. 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

Other words from functionalism

  • sem·i·func·tion·al·ism, noun

Words Nearby functionalism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use functionalism in a sentence

  • It had a certain pleasing severity, the unconscious balance of complete functionalism.

    The Sensitive Man | Poul William Anderson
  • 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


/ (ˈfʌŋkʃənəˌlɪzəm) /

  1. the theory of design that the form of a thing should be determined by its use

  2. any doctrine that stresses utility or purpose

  1. 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 of functionalism

  • 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

Cultural definitions for functionalism


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.