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[ahy-dee-uh-liz-uh m] /aɪˈdi əˌlɪz əm/
the cherishing or pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc.
the practice of idealizing.
something idealized; an ideal representation.
Fine Arts. treatment of subject matter in a work of art in which a mental conception of beauty or form is stressed, characterized usually by the selection of particular features of various models and their combination into a whole according to a standard of perfection.
Compare naturalism (def 2), realism (def 3a).
  1. any system or theory that maintains that the real is of the nature of thought or that the object of external perception consists of ideas.
  2. the tendency to represent things in an ideal form, or as they might or should be rather than as they are, with emphasis on values.
1790-1800; ideal + -ism, probably modeled on German Idealismus
Related forms
anti-idealism, noun
overidealism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for idealism
  • The drive toward a greener future doesn't stem from idealism.
  • His ardour and idealism prepare us for the deeper spiritual sublimity of the puritan poet.
  • The idea is simple, but unhappily it has been a long time reaching us, being hindered by idealism and sentimentality.
  • It seems to me that the idealism of being able to duplicate nature's steaks is misguided and counter productive.
  • He took his generation's anger and curiosity and laziness and woolly idealism and gave it a hyper-articulate voice.
  • There are important issues of empiricism vs idealism here.
  • The launderers got our dough and walked on top of the eco frenzy that was fostered on pie in the sky idealism and green chatter.
  • Such youthful idealism as mine does not usually survive its encounter with reality.
  • Human progress has often been made in the space between idealism and savagery.
  • True realism requires a dose of idealism and optimism, or else policy becomes immobilized.
British Dictionary definitions for idealism


belief in or pursuance of ideals
the tendency to represent things in their ideal forms, rather than as they are
any of a group of philosophical doctrines that share the monistic view that material objects and the external world do not exist in reality independently of the human mind but are variously creations of the mind or constructs of ideas Compare materialism (sense 2), dualism (sense 2)
Derived Forms
idealist, noun
idealistic, adjective
idealistically, adverb
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
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Word Origin and History for idealism

1796, in the abstract sense, originally "belief that reality is made up only of ideas," from ideal (adj.) + -ism; on model of French idéalisme. Meaning "representing things in an ideal form" is from 1829.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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idealism in Culture

idealism definition

An approach to philosophy that regards mind, spirit, or ideas as the most fundamental kinds of reality, or at least as governing our experience of the ordinary objects in the world. Idealism is opposed to materialism, naturalism, and realism. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was an idealist; so was Immanuel Kant.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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