(usually initial capital letter) Chiefly Architecture, Furniture.
a design movement evolved from several previous movements or schools in Europe in the early 20th century, advocating the design of buildings, furnishings, etc., as direct fulfillments of material requirements, as for shelter, repose, or the serving of food, with the construction, materials, and purpose clearly expressed or at least not denied, and with aesthetic effect derived chiefly from proportions and finish, purely decorative effects being excluded or greatly subordinated.
the doctrines and practices associated with this movement. Compare rationalism ( def 4 ).
Psychology. the doctrine that emphasizes the adaptiveness of the mental or behavioral processes.
Sociology. Also called structural functionalism. a theoretical orientation that views society as a system of interdependent parts whose functions contribute to the stability and survival of the system.

1910–15; functional + -ism

semifunctionalism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
functionalism (ˈfʌŋkʃənəˌlɪzəm)
1.  the theory of design that the form of a thing should be determined by its use
2.  any doctrine that stresses utility or purpose
3.  psychol a system of thought based on the premise that all mental processes derive from their usefulness to the organism in adapting to the environment
n, —adj

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1914 as a term in social sciences; 1930 in architecture; from functional + -ism. Related: functionalist.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

functionalism definition

An approach to architecture that adapts the design of a building or other structure to its future use. Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe were notable advocates of functionalism in the twentieth century.

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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