Definition of practical in US English:



  • 1Of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.

    ‘there are two obvious practical applications of the research’
    • ‘His descriptions and observations go directly to the practical application of theory to the hard realities of congregational song.’
    • ‘More practical application of Metz's work to a North American context still remains.’
    • ‘But she also did something practical toward creating economic wealth for that community.’
    • ‘We try to keep abreast of the new treatments, but have gained little practical experience of using them.’
    • ‘The first half of the day would be devoted to the theory of lighting and photography, with the second half being practical application of the theories.’
    • ‘They serve a practical purpose: handling 88 percent of the development's stormwater.’
    • ‘The ethical and practical ramifications were experienced rather than taught.’
    • ‘One practical implication is that there exists a variety of ways to establish a repertoire.’
    • ‘The focus is on research and theory, rather than practical matters of assessment and intervention.’
    • ‘Consideration of such uncertainty is important if qualitatively different theoretical and practical implications arise.’
    • ‘So let's look at his theory in practical application.’
    • ‘Being encouraged to do something practical made an incalculable difference to my moods.’
    • ‘The disputes were usually about small things, some of which had no actual ramifications in the practical application of Jewish law.’
    • ‘And the region's scientists and researchers have tended to concentrate on finding practical applications rather than unraveling basic principles.’
    • ‘This is not just a theory, it's practical experience.’
    • ‘And so I have to admit I don't see practical applications of string theory at the moment.’
    • ‘Internships and co-op opportunities turn classroom theory into practical, hands-on experience.’
    • ‘Overall, the training will be intensive with extensive practical exercises and actual application of foreign language skills.’
    • ‘From a purely practical standpoint, this is a very nice DVD set.’
    • ‘There is probably no single school that regularly turns out graduates with solid grounding in all the areas of design, theory, and practical experience.’
    empirical, hands-on, pragmatic, real, actual, active, applied, experiential, experimental, non-theoretical, in the field
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  • 2(of an idea, plan, or method) likely to succeed or be effective in real circumstances; feasible.

    ‘neither of these strategies is practical for smaller businesses’
    • ‘Eminently practical advice was interspersed with stirring statements of principle.’
    • ‘Almost half of the participants felt that the workshop gave them effective and practical strategies to use when dealing with teachers and students.’
    • ‘Still, it doesn't seem practical how she resolves things with George.’
    • ‘I think that's the kind of solution that might be very practical.’
    • ‘In the health services of the Western world, a search is under way to find effective and practical methods for assessing the performance of doctors.’
    • ‘It is the only practical way you can plan your profit in the future.’
    • ‘This article describes principles and practical procedures for effective communication and simple interventions.’
    • ‘A number of alternative more practical methods have been suggested.’
    • ‘This isn't merely an old-fashioned system, but an effective, practical way to reduce pests and diseases and to help keep your soil healthy and fertile.’
    • ‘Judges would have no real practical way of testing or assessing the reliability of intelligence information presented to them.’
    • ‘Designers of the winning entries will then be able to prove to commercial organisations that their ideas are practical, effective and worth investing in.’
    • ‘"When the kids were younger, going abroad just didn't seem practical.’
    • ‘The book does say it was written by mothers, for mothers, full of eminently practical advice.’
    • ‘Both approaches have merit but it may not yet be practical to use one universal format for all project documents.’
    • ‘It is necessary that we reach a consensus on such issues, and conduct research and training to develop practical procedures which can effectively deal with disasters.’
    • ‘Depending on travel agencies for sorting out most of the plans is also a practical way of going on a road tour.’
    • ‘Chemoradiation therapy will probably prove a more feasible and practical means of achieving similar benefit.’
    • ‘So, if we are to achieve the goal of reducing congestion we must complement the current plan with immediate and attractive alternatives that provide practical ways of travelling to and around the city.’
    • ‘Until now, there has been no cost - effective, practical way to meet our volume and throughput requirements.’
    • ‘There's no need to dismiss an idea because it doesn't seem practical.’
    feasible, practicable, realistic, viable, workable, possible, within the bounds of possibility, within the realms of possibility, reasonable, sensible, useful, helpful, constructive
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    1. 2.1 Suitable for a particular purpose.
      ‘a practical, stylish kitchen’
      • ‘However, recent changes in back-end switch design now make it practical and feasible.’
      • ‘The reason is they're practical, and, in a gunshop, they are most appropriate.’
      • ‘They are tuned single actions still practical for regular use.’
      • ‘The plan emphasizes treatment and prevention strategies that are effective and practical for use in individual areas.’
      • ‘The scientists expect to make these cells practical to use within just 2 years.’
      functional, serviceable, sensible, useful, utilitarian, utility, everyday, workaday, ordinary
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    2. 2.2 (of a person) sensible and realistic in their approach to a situation or problem.
      ‘I'm not unfeeling, just trying to be practical’
      • ‘Consequently, the practical politicians and their realistic programs can create nothing but a disaster.’
      • ‘I feel that I am also a very rational, reasonable and practical person.’
      • ‘We must be practical enough to realise that the economic situation of the State or the people can never improve magically with any settlement unless measures are taken in advance.’
      • ‘They know that I'm very practical, very pragmatic.’
      • ‘No, she was still the prickly, ornery, far too practical person she had always been, even in matters of sentiment.’
      • ‘At the same time, this next generation of women is too practical, pragmatic, and tough-minded to be dismissed as ideologues.’
      • ‘Our Master's not a very practical man, nor a realistic one.’
      • ‘He was a practical man, a pragmatic builder of empire!’
      • ‘These are practical thinkers who strive to make sensible and affordable compromises and alterations to the dreams.’
      • ‘She's just a hard-headed, practical girl, sharp enough to see how much trouble she's in, but not sharp enough to do a whole lot about it.’
      • ‘He was a practical politician, and wanted a pragmatic solution - preferably on one sheet of A4.’
      • ‘You need to be more realistic and practical and view situations from another perspective.’
      • ‘We have long prided ourselves as being an exceedingly pragmatic and practical people.’
      • ‘And besides, though he was as practical and realistic as his father, he was also as principled and as headstrong and as stubborn as his mother, so he would follow in his father's footsteps.’
      • ‘Now, both in football and business terms, the practical person in us cannot blame Shepherd for not sacking the miscreants, even if the principled part demands them being cast out.’
      • ‘She's very practical about the acting business.’
      • ‘To the world and to herself, she was a no-nonsense, practical woman who scoffed at indulgence and spurned luxury.’
      • ‘While many people might imagine the writer's life is one of poetry and romance, she took a very practical and hard-headed approach to the project.’
      • ‘She said Caroline was a sensible and practical teenager, and prepared well for her trip.’
      • ‘All reasonable and practical people will know that there cannot be much deliberation or discussion about such an initiative.’
      realistic, sensible, down-to-earth, pragmatic, businesslike, matter-of-fact, reasonable, rational, commonsensical, hard-headed, no-nonsense, with both feet on the ground, with one's feet on the ground
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    3. 2.3 (of a person) skilled at manual tasks.
      ‘Steve'll fix it—he's quite practical’
      • ‘He was a very practical man and was skilled in the wireless detection system which we now call radar.’
      skilful, skilled, dexterous, deft, nimble-fingered, adroit, able, adept, proficient, capable
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  • 3So nearly the case that it can be regarded as so; virtual.

    ‘it was a practical certainty that he would try to raise more money’
    • ‘Should the law extend the definition beyond purpose to cover the awareness of the practical certainty that the crew would be killed?’
    • ‘There is practical certainty as to payment, and that contingency does not affect the existence of the liability.’
    virtual, effective, in effect
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  • for all practical purposes

    • Virtually, or essentially.

      ‘Zimmerman had become, for all practical purposes, an arms smuggler’
      • ‘But for all practical purposes, they're both unelectable this fall.’
      • ‘Well, it's already hitting, for all practical purposes here.’
      • ‘‘My understanding is the nuclear programme has been, for all practical purposes, dismantled,’ he said.’
      • ‘For some of the time, he was, for all practical purposes, homeless.’
      • ‘And ‘over the radio’ meant, for all practical purposes, the BBC.’
      • ‘Judicial activism was for all practical purposes now the accepted law of the land in everything from anti-trust cases to the arrest of criminals.’
      • ‘At this point the story is, for all practical purposes, over.’
      • ‘I think that, for all practical purposes, that's not looking to good.’
      • ‘I saw the movie years and years ago, when, for all practical purposes, I was still a full-blown European.’
      • ‘Materialism holds that our potential for good and more fulfilling cultural development is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.’


Late 16th century: from archaic practic ‘practical’ (from Old French practique, via late Latin from Greek praktikos ‘concerned with action’, from prattein ‘do, act’) + -al.