[ ahy-dee-uh-liz-uhm ]
See synonyms for idealism on
  1. the cherishing or pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc.

  2. the practice of idealizing.

  1. something idealized; an ideal representation.

  2. 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).

  3. Philosophy.

    • 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.

    • 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

Other words from idealism

  • an·ti-i·de·al·ism, noun
  • o·ver·i·de·al·ism, noun

Words Nearby idealism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use idealism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for idealism


/ (aɪˈdɪəˌlɪzəm) /

  1. belief in or pursuance of ideals

  2. the tendency to represent things in their ideal forms, rather than as they are

  1. 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 (def. 2), dualism (def. 2)

Derived forms of idealism

  • 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

Cultural definitions for idealism


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