Definition of utilitarian in English:



  • 1Designed to be useful or practical rather than attractive.

    • ‘These traditions provide inspiration at every level - from the design of the most utilitarian objects to fine art.’
    • ‘She wore utilitarian working clothes, rather than the traditional blouse and skirt.’
    • ‘It said the battle to save the building was lost and the site was now to be covered by flats of a utilitarian design.’
    • ‘For those unable to afford elaborately carved items or high-quality cabinetry, there was nevertheless much practical, utilitarian furniture.’
    • ‘But does a democracy really have to choose to build brutish, dull, utilitarian buildings when building for itself?’
    • ‘The building, whose economical and utilitarian design gives it an imposing solidarity, is still there, situated about 300 metres from the Bosphorus shoreline.’
    • ‘They looked merely utilitarian and sensibly designed.’
    • ‘Stoneware was the basic ceramic ware for utilitarian objects in the nineteenth century.’
    • ‘Craftsmen survived in a variety of way: by producing souvenirs rather than utilitarian objects.’
    • ‘The scrapers seem to have functioned primarily as utilitarian items rather than prestige items.’
    • ‘They used these simple stacked facades for unpretentious utilitarian buildings; the repeated detail lent itself to prefabrication.’
    • ‘His sculptures misbehave, they defy convention, they turn utilitarian objects and practical actions into outlandish things involving wonder and humor.’
    • ‘The original farmhouse was a utilitarian building without much molding or other decoration.’
    • ‘The buildings are utilitarian in nature, although they come with efficient, and some would say essential, air-conditioning.’
    • ‘Grips on any handgun can be works of art or strictly utilitarian objects that fulfill a need.’
    • ‘Department stores do stock lots of bras in ‘plus’ sizes, but they tend to be ugly, utilitarian and practical bras designed for an older clientele.’
    • ‘It's a plain, utilitarian stick that does its job without calling attention to itself.’
    • ‘The cars handle well, offering a little fun to go with their high quality and utilitarian design.’
    • ‘Surprising though, is the toned down and rather utilitarian look and shape of the accessories.’
    • ‘It is a shopping centre, not Salisbury Cathedral, and it is always going to be a utilitarian building.’
    practical, functional, serviceable, useful, sensible, effective, efficient, pragmatic, realistic, utility, working, workaday, handy, neat, ordinary, down-to-earth
    plain, unadorned, undecorative, unpretentious, unsentimental, soulless
    hard-wearing, durable, lasting, long-lasting, tough, strong, robust, wear-resistant
    View synonyms
  • 2Philosophy
    Relating to or adhering to the doctrine of utilitarianism.

    ‘a utilitarian theorist’
    • ‘In England, the utilitarian doctrine of a higher public good trumped the idea of intellectual property rooted in natural right.’
    • ‘I can make both moral and utilitarian arguments for the classical liberal worldview.’
    • ‘Modern philosophers tend to take a more utilitarian position.’
    • ‘I imagined that a broadly utilitarian approach to ethics was fairly standard these days.’
    • ‘He made a lasting contribution to moral and political philosophy by attacking the prevailing materialism and empiricism of utilitarian thinkers.’


  • An adherent of utilitarianism.

    • ‘The morality of actions for utilitarians was only to be judged according to their impact on the overall wellbeing or happiness of society, not the pain experienced by one group of individuals.’
    • ‘While it is quite clear that Adam Smith and the later utilitarians did accept a general principle of equality, they never argued that all individuals actually do make rational decisions.’
    • ‘It is no accident then, that the utilitarians were often called philosophical radicals.’
    • ‘The utilitarians, who were also known as Philosophical Radicals, believed in a rather simple social formula: reduce pain and increase pleasure.’
    • ‘Assigning particular rights to people may be a way to promote wellbeing, and when it is, utilitarians favour doing it.’