from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An inclination toward literal truth and pragmatism.
  • n. The representation in art or literature of objects, actions, or social conditions as they actually are, without idealization or presentation in abstract form.
  • n. Philosophy The scholastic doctrine, opposed to nominalism, that universals exist independently of their being thought.
  • n. Philosophy The modern philosophical doctrine, opposed to idealism, that physical objects exist independently of their being perceived.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary
  • n. An artistic representation of reality as it is
  • n. The viewpoint that an external reality exists independent of observation
  • n. A doctrine that universals are real—they exist and are distinct from the particulars that instantiate them

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n.
  • n. As opposed to nominalism, the doctrine that genera and species are real things or entities, existing independently of our conceptions. According to realism the Universal exists ante rem (Plato), or in re (Aristotle).
  • n. As opposed to idealism, the doctrine that in sense perception there is an immediate cognition of the external object, and our knowledge of it is not mediate and representative.
  • n. Fidelity to nature or to real life; representation without idealization, and making no appeal to the imagination; adherence to the actual fact.
  • n. the practise of assessing facts and the probabilities of the consequences of actions in an objective manner; avoidance of unrealistic or impractical beliefs or efforts. Contrasted to idealism, self-deception, overoptimism, overimaginativeness, or visionariness.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The doctrine of the realist, in any of the senses of that word. See especially realist, n., 1.
  • n. In literature and art, the representation of what is real in fact; the effort to exhibit the literal reality and unvarnished truth of things; treatment of characters, objects, scenes, events, circumstances, etc., according to actual truth or appearance, or to intrinsic probability, without selection or preference over the ugly of what is beautiful or admirable: opposed to idealism and romanticism. Compare naturalism.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an artistic movement in 19th century France; artists and writers strove for detailed realistic and factual description
  • n. the attribute of accepting the facts of life and favoring practicality and literal truth
  • n. (philosophy) the philosophical doctrine that physical objects continue to exist when not perceived
  • n. the state of being actual or real
  • n. (philosophy) the philosophical doctrine that abstract concepts exist independent of their names


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • In the arts, the term realism is commonly used to refer to the often life-like depiction of the world of objects and human beings.


  • The term realism is also used to describe a movement in literature that attempts to portray life as it is.


  • But even with this definition, the term realism has no very definite meaning unless all persons agree as to what constitutes nature.

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  • I've already mentioned the crucial point about approximation Duhem doesn't consider himself a realist because the view that physical theories are approximate rules out what he calls realism, but there are other issues.

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  • Those big chaps who blow about what they call realism -- how do THEIR portraits look in a drawing-room?

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  • With all its poetic impulse, it is an age clearly of faithful observation, of what we call realism, alike in its iconic and heroic work; alike in portraiture, that is to say, and in the presentment of divine or abstract types.

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  • Schmittians, however much they seek to clothe themselves in "realism" are in fact the enemies of the rule of law, and thus of freedom. Nation Mag Claims ICE has Network of Secret Detention Faciilities -- in the USA

  • If so, I can't believe Updike actually thinks that this kind of "realism" is either fiction's "proper" mode or that most readers actually do prefer fiction that really, truly, tells the "truth" about human existence or the common lot of most people in our beloved U.S. of A.

    Realism in Fiction

  • Confining what's acceptably literary to "realism" is an efficient way of dispensing with all those quarrelsome writers who break the rules, who think literary art is necessarily "impure" insofar as its possibilities are still being discovered.

    Realism in Fiction

  • Nigel opines that novels such as The Brothers Karamazov and The Red and the Black are closer to his life, but why couldn't fiction that emphasizes setting or incident be just as "close to life," especially if "realism" is the preferred goal?

    Realism in Fiction


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