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The definition of utilize is

to use something, especially for a practical purpose.

What does practical mean here? Definitions of practical from OALD:

connected with real situations rather than with ideas or theories

right or sensible; likely to be successful

useful or suitable

sensible and realistic

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This question is an attempt to get at the difference between use (v.) and *utilize (v.) and so is an exact duplicate of <english.stackexchange.com/questions/19811/…;. –  MετάEd Sep 10 '12 at 11:23
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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I noted in a comment that utilize appears frequently in theoretical discussions, not necessarily sensible, realistic, or likely to succeed; and that most use of the term entails using something in a way it is suitable for, as in sense 3, “useful or suitable”. More precisely, the third sense is the one whose elements are common to almost all uses of practical in the context of defining utilize, although in many uses of practical in that context, elements of all four senses apply.

In an answer to a question about utilize, FumbleFingers submits that using utilize is at least in principle “a somewhat more precise word than use. It often implies a degree of creativity in making something be capable of being used in a way not originally intended, rather than simply using something designed for the purpose of being thus used” – which, note, does not contravene the item being found suitable for its new purpose – and also says utilize is only a little pompous. Other answers go further; eg Jay suggests it's used “To impress the reader with how smart the author must be to understand this complicated subject”.

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Practical in the meaning of "right or sensible; likely to be successful — even profitable".

Sample sentences:

  • We must consider how best to utilize what resources we have.
  • The vitamins come in a form that is easily utilized by the body.
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