[ prag-muh-tist ]
/ ˈpræg mə tɪst /
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a person who is oriented toward the success or failure of a particular line of action, thought, etc.; a practical person.
an advocate or adherent of philosophical pragmatism.
of, relating to, or characteristic of pragmatism.
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Origin of pragmatist

First recorded in 1630–40; pragmat(ic) + -ist


an·ti·prag·ma·tist, noun, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does pragmatist mean?

A pragmatist is a person who deals with problems or situations by focusing on practical approaches and solutions—ones that will work in practice, as opposed to being ideal in theory.

The word pragmatist is often contrasted with the word idealist, which refers to a person who acts based on high principles or ideals. A pragmatist, on the other hand, acts based on real-world conditions or circumstances—they consider what can realistically be done as opposed to the best theoretical course of action. This approach is called pragmatism.

More specifically, pragmatism can refer to the philosophical movement or approach that emphasizes practical consequences in the determination of meaning, truth, or value. A philosopher who adheres to this can also be called a pragmatist.

Pragmatist can also be used as an adjective to describe such a philosophy or action. The related adjective form pragmatic means practical, especially when making decisions.

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

Where does pragmatist come from?

The first records of the word pragmatist come from around 1640. It ultimately derives from the Greek pragmatikós, meaning “practical,” from pragma, meaning “act,” from prā́ssein, “to do.” The words practical and praxis derive from the same root.

People considered pragmatists focus on the realistic options or courses of action. People considered idealists typically try 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. In general, a close synonym for pragmatist is practical person.

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What are some other forms related to pragmatist?

What are some words that share a root or word element with pragmatist

What are some words that often get used in discussing pragmatist?

How is pragmatist used in real life?

Pragmatist is commonly used in a positive way to refer to people who make choices or actions that are considered practical and reasonable. It’s often used in the context of politics.



Try using pragmatist!

Which of the following words is LEAST like to describe a person considered a pragmatist?

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

How to use pragmatist in a sentence