View synonyms for rationalize


[ rash-uh-nl-ahyz, rash-nl-ahyz ]

verb (used with object)

, ra·tion·al·ized, ra·tion·al·iz·ing.
  1. to ascribe (one's acts, opinions, etc.) to causes that superficially seem reasonable and valid but that actually are unrelated to the true, possibly unconscious and often less creditable or agreeable causes.
  2. to remove unreasonable elements from.
  3. to make rational or conformable to reason.
  4. to treat or explain in a rational or rationalistic manner.
  5. Mathematics. to eliminate radicals from (an equation or expression):

    to rationalize the denominator of a fraction.

  6. Chiefly British. to reorganize and integrate (an industry).

verb (used without object)

, ra·tion·al·ized, ra·tion·al·iz·ing.
  1. to invent plausible explanations for acts, opinions, etc., that are actually based on other causes:

    He tried to prove that he was not at fault, but he was obviously rationalizing.

  2. to employ reason; think in a rational or rationalistic manner.


/ ˈræʃənəˌlaɪz /


  1. to justify (one's actions, esp discreditable actions, or beliefs) with plausible reasons, esp after the event
  2. psychol to indulge, often unchallenged, in excuses for or explanations of (behaviour about which one feels uncomfortable or guilty)
  3. to apply logic or reason to (something)
  4. to eliminate unnecessary equipment, personnel, or processes from (a group of businesses, factory, etc), in order to make it more efficient
  5. tr maths to eliminate one or more radicals without changing the value of (an expression) or the roots of (an equation)

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Usage Note

Although rationalize retains its principal 19th-century senses “to make conformable to reason” and “to treat in a rational manner,” 20th-century psychology has given it the now more common meaning “to ascribe (one's acts, opinions, etc.) to causes that seem reasonable but actually are unrelated to the true, possibly unconscious causes.” Although the possibility of ambiguity exists, the context will usually make clear which sense is intended.
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Derived Forms

  • ˌrationaliˈzation, noun
  • ˈrationalˌizer, noun
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Other Words From

  • ra·tion·al·i·za·tion [rash-, uh, -nl-ahy-, zey, -sh, uh, n, rash-nl-] especially British, ra·tion·al·i·sa·tion noun
  • ra·tion·al·iz·er especially British, ra·tion·al·is·er noun
  • non·ra·tion·al·ized especially British, non·ra·tion·al·ised adjective
  • o·ver·ra·tion·al·ize verb overrationalized overrationalizing
  • sem·i·ra·tion·al·ized especially British, sem·i·ra·tion·al·ised adjective
  • un·ra·tion·al·ized especially British, un·ra·tion·al·ised adjective
  • un·ra·tion·al·iz·ing especially British, un·ra·tion·al·is·ing adjective
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Word History and Origins

Origin of rationalize1

First recorded in 1810–20; rational + -ize
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Example Sentences

While some react by abandoning the worldview entirely, many others find that rationalizing what went wrong is cognitively easier than admitting you, yourself, were the one who was wrong.

All these trends, especially when they layer on top of and reinforce each other, help create an atmosphere where violence against opponents is rationalized and politics becomes a game to win at any cost.

Yes, in the moment, they transcend our tendency to rationalize and victim-blame, and they get national attention by virtue of their terrible scale.

Prosecutor Raj Parekh dismissed the defense as retrospective attempts to rationalize Donald’s behavior.

It might be rationalized as a decision made by a consciously aware species, but it could also be seen as a direct, mechanistic extension of the efficacy of gene exchange and sexual reproduction in perpetuating the phenomenon of life.

Because as an actor, you have to rationalize his decisions constantly.

That conservative can always rationalize his actions—platitudes come cheap.

Let us not rationalize or attempt to justify an expulsion that in our hearts we know is wrong.

Rather than rationalize the tax code, or reform entitlements, the government has taken a cleaver to discretionary spending.

They rationalize away the facts, defend their position, and actually become more fervent.

It is at present a quite inexplicable story, and we give these preposterous facts with no attempt to rationalize them.

Nor, as a matter of fact, is it any more easy for the militarist to rationalize his method of solving world difficulties.

At present we give way to resentful passion, and then "rationalize" our surrender by calling it a vindication of justice.

I wanted her near my own size again as though the blessed normality of that would rationalize and lessen her danger.

It is more evil to "rationalize" the act—to invent a moral reason for doing an infamous thing.


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