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.
to remove unreasonable elements from.
to make rational or conformable to reason.
to treat or explain in a rational or rationalistic manner.
Mathematics. to eliminate radicals from (an equation or expression): to rationalize the denominator of a fraction.
Chiefly British. to reorganize and integrate (an industry).
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.
to employ reason; think in a rational or rationalistic manner.
- Also especially British, ra·tion·al·ise .
- ra·tion·al·i·za·tion [rash-uh-nl-ahy-zey-shuhn, rash-nl-] /ˌræʃ ə nl aɪˈzeɪ ʃən, ˌræʃ 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, o·ver·ra·tion·al·ized, o·ver·ra·tion·al·iz·ing.
- 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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use rationalize in a sentence
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.How We Keep Riding After the Nevada Cycling Deaths | Eben Weiss | December 22, 2020 | Outside Online
Prosecutor Raj Parekh dismissed the defense as retrospective attempts to rationalize Donald’s behavior.Loudoun doctor who faked coronavirus exposure, got relief loan after pleading guilty to running ‘pill mill,’ is sentenced | Rachel Weiner | December 2, 2020 | Washington Post
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.How Life Could Continue to Evolve - Issue 88: Love & Sex | Caleb Scharf | August 12, 2020 | Nautilus
Because as an actor, you have to rationalize his decisions constantly.Michael C. Hall on Going Drag for ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ and Exorcising ‘Dexter’ | Marlow Stern | December 4, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
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.Why I Joined 775 Rabbinic Colleagues in Opposing the Dispossession of Bedouin Israelis | Rabbi Gilah Langner | November 6, 2013 | THE DAILY BEAST
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.Sorry, Evangelicals, Syria Will Not Spur the Second Coming | Candida Moss | September 5, 2013 | THE DAILY BEAST
It is at present a quite inexplicable story, and we give these preposterous facts with no attempt to rationalize them.The Outline of History: Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind | Herbert George Wells
Nor, as a matter of fact, is it any more easy for the militarist to rationalize his method of solving world difficulties.The Record of a Quaker Conscience, Cyrus Pringle's Diary | Cyrus Pringle
At present we give way to resentful passion, and then "rationalize" our surrender by calling it a vindication of justice.Human Nature and Conduct | John Dewey
I wanted her near my own size again as though the blessed normality of that would rationalize and lessen her danger.Beyond the Vanishing Point | Raymond King Cummings
It is more evil to "rationalize" the act—to invent a moral reason for doing an infamous thing.Golden Lads | Arthur Gleason and Helen Hayes Gleason
British Dictionary definitions for rationalize
to justify (one's actions, esp discreditable actions, or beliefs) with plausible reasons, esp after the event
psychol to indulge, often unchallenged, in excuses for or explanations of (behaviour about which one feels uncomfortable or guilty)
to apply logic or reason to (something)
to eliminate unnecessary equipment, personnel, or processes from (a group of businesses, factory, etc), in order to make it more efficient
(tr) maths to eliminate one or more radicals without changing the value of (an expression) or the roots of (an equation)
- rationalization or rationalisation, noun
- rationalizer or rationaliser, noun
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