[ prag-mat-ik ]
/ prægˈmæt ɪk /
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See synonyms for: pragmatic / pragmatics on Thesaurus.com

adjective Also prag·mat·i·cal (for defs. 1, 2, 5).
Archaic. an officious or meddlesome person.
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Origin of pragmatic

First recorded in 1580–90; from Latin prāgmaticus, from Greek prāgmatikós “practical,” equivalent to prāgmat-, stem of prâgma “deed, state business,” derivative of prā́ssein “to do, fare” + -ikos -ic;see practic


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does pragmatic mean?

Pragmatic means practical, especially when making decisions.

The word pragmatic is often contrasted with the word idealistic, which means based on or having high principles or ideals. Pragmatic, on the other hand, means based on real world conditions or circumstances—considering what can realistically be done as opposed to the best theoretical course of action. A person who acts pragmatically can be called a pragmatist.

The noun form of pragmatic is pragmatism. Pragmatism can mean the practice of being pragmatic, but it can also more specifically refer to the philosophical movement that emphasizes practical consequences in the determination of meaning, truth, or value.

Example: We need a candidate who’s pragmatic and can get things done in the real world—not some idealist who will never compromise.

Where does pragmatic come from?

The first records of the word pragmatic come from the 1580s. It comes from the Greek pragmatikós, meaning “practical,” from pragma, meaning “act,” from prā́ssein, “to do.” The words practical and praxis derive from the same root.

Idealistic people are sometimes told they need to be more pragmatic. Typically, this means that they should focus on the realistic options or courses of action (the pragmatic ones) instead of only trying to achieve the best-case scenario—the one based on their ideals. Of course, many people navigate life with a balance of pragmatism and idealism: sometimes they compromise, and sometimes they stick to their principles no matter what.

The word pragmatic isn’t always contrasted with idealistic. Sometimes, it’s just used as a way of describing something as practical, logical, or sensible. The word is most often applied to people, actions, or plans.

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How is pragmatic used in real life?

Pragmatic is commonly used in a positive way to praise choices or actions that are considered practical and reasonable. It’s often applied to political positions or actions.



Try using pragmatic!

Which of the following words is LEAST like to describe an action considered pragmatic?

A. realistic
B. sensible
C. utilitarian
D. idealistic

How to use pragmatic in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for pragmatic

/ (præɡˈmætɪk) /

advocating behaviour that is dictated more by practical consequences than by theory or dogma
philosophy of or relating to pragmatism
involving everyday or practical business
of or concerned with the affairs of a state or community
rare interfering or meddlesome; officious
Also (for senses 3, 5): pragmatical

Derived forms of pragmatic

pragmaticality, nounpragmatically, adverb

Word Origin for pragmatic

C17: from Late Latin prāgmaticus, from Greek prāgmatikos from pragma act, from prattein to do
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