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[rash-uh-nl-ahyz, rash-nl-ahyz] /ˈræʃ ə nlˌaɪz, ˈræʃ nlˌaɪz/
verb (used with object), rationalized, rationalizing.
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).
verb (used without object), rationalized, rationalizing.
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, rationalise.
Origin of rationalize
1810-20; rational + -ize
Related forms
rationalization, noun
rationalizer, noun
nonrationalization, noun
nonrationalized, adjective
overrationalization, noun
overrationalize, verb, overrationalized, overrationalizing.
semirationalized, adjective
unrationalized, adjective
unrationalizing, adjective
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. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for rationalize
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I can't imagine how his mind works to rationalize for his behavior.

    Jack of No Trades Charles Cottrell
  • I cleared my mind and tried to rationalize the things around us.

    The Beasts in the Void Paul W. Fairman
  • Aristotle, accepting the world of common-sense, tried to rationalize it; that is, to realize it in himself.

  • Every new theory must take up into itself earlier doctrines and rationalize the earlier exceptions.

    Creative Intelligence John Dewey, Addison W. Moore, Harold Chapman Brown, George H. Mead, Boyd H. Bode, Henry Waldgrave, Stuart James, Hayden Tufts, Horace M. Kallen
  • I only knew what I was; nor could I rationalize on why I had become this way.

    Each Man Kills Victoria Glad
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
(transitive) (maths) to eliminate one or more radicals without changing the value of (an expression) or the roots of (an equation)
Derived Forms
rationalization, rationalisation, noun
rationalizer, 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
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Word Origin and History for rationalize

1767, "explain in a rational way, make conformable to reason," from rational + -ize. In the psychological sense of "to give an explanation that conceals true motives" it dates from 1922. Related: Rationalized; rationalizing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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rationalize in Medicine

rationalize ra·tion·al·ize (rāsh'ə-nə-līz')
v. ra·tion·al·ized, ra·tion·al·iz·ing, ra·tion·al·iz·es

  1. To make rational.

  2. To devise self-satisfying but false or inconsistent reasons for one's behavior, especially as an unconscious defense mechanism through which irrational acts or feelings are made to appear rational to oneself.

ra'tion·al·i·za'tion (rāsh'ə-nə-lĭ-zā'shən) n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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