[ree-uh-liz-uh m]


interest in or concern for the actual or real, as distinguished from the abstract, speculative, etc.
the tendency to view or represent things as they really are.
Fine Arts.
  1. treatment of forms, colors, space, etc., in such a manner as to emphasize their correspondence to actuality or to ordinary visual experience.Compare idealism(def 4), naturalism(def 2).
  2. (usually initial capital letter)a style of painting and sculpture developed about the mid-19th century in which figures and scenes are depicted as they are experienced or might be experienced in everyday life.
  1. a manner of treating subject matter that presents a careful description of everyday life, usually of the lower and middle classes.
  2. a theory of writing in which the ordinary, familiar, or mundane aspects of life are represented in a straightforward or matter-of-fact manner that is presumed to reflect life as it actually is.Compare naturalism(def 1b).
  1. the doctrine that universals have a real objective existence.Compare conceptualism, nominalism.
  2. the doctrine that objects of sense perception have an existence independent of the act of perception.Compare idealism(def 5a).

Origin of realism

1810–20; real1 + -ism; compare French réalisme
Related formsan·ti·re·al·ism, nounhy·per·re·al·ism, nounnon·re·al·ism, nouno·ver·re·al·ism, nounpro·re·al·ism, nounul·tra·re·al·ism, nounun·re·al·ism, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for realism

verisimilitude, truth, reality, naturalness, verity, verism

Examples from the Web for realism

Contemporary Examples of realism

Historical Examples of realism

  • Of plot there is little, but as a terrible study in realism the book is a masterpiece.

    A Zola Dictionary

    J. G. Patterson

  • The end of realism, my dear Wyndham, is the thing of all others I most desire to see.

    Audrey Craven

    May Sinclair

  • At some of the meetings there was perhaps an excess of realism.

  • To my thinking, at any rate, they make a gravid mistake who look for "realism" in these things.


    Beatrice Fortescue

  • Realism of the most ghastly truthfulness, as to a corpse in the grave, it certainly is.


    Beatrice Fortescue

British Dictionary definitions for realism



awareness or acceptance of the physical universe, events, etc, as they are, as opposed to the abstract or ideal
awareness or acceptance of the facts and necessities of life; a practical rather than a moral or dogmatic view of things
a style of painting and sculpture that seeks to represent the familiar or typical in real life, rather than an idealized, formalized, or romantic interpretation of it
any similar school or style in other arts, esp literature
philosophy the thesis that general terms such as common nouns refer to entities that have a real existence separate from the individuals which fall under themSee also universal (def. 11b) Compare Platonism, nominalism, conceptualism, naive realism
philosophy the theory that physical objects continue to exist whether they are perceived or notCompare idealism, phenomenalism
logic philosophy the theory that the sense of a statement is given by a specification of its truth conditions, or that there is a reality independent of the speaker's conception of it that determines the truth or falsehood of every statement
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

Word Origin and History for realism

1794, from real (adj.) + -ism; after French réalisme or German Realismus; from Late Latin realis "real." Opposed to idealism in philosophy, art, etc. In reference to scholastic doctrine of Thomas Aquinas (opposed to nominalism) it is recorded from 1826. Meaning "close resemblance to the scene" (in art, literature, etc., often with reference to unpleasant details) is attested from 1856.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

realism in Culture


An approach to philosophy that regards external objects as the most fundamentally real things, with perceptions or ideas as secondary. Realism is thus opposed to idealism. Materialism and naturalism are forms of realism. The term realism is also used to describe a movement in literature that attempts to portray life as it is.


An attempt to make art and literature resemble life. Realist painters and writers take their subjects from the world around them (instead of from idealized subjects, such as figures in mythology or folklore) and try to represent them in a lifelike manner.

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.