I am exploring the theoretical character differences between an optimist, pessimist and an idealist. Originally I had thought that an idealist would really sit in the middle of the other two, but now I'm second guessing myself. I am basically looking for a noun of a person that tries to make things the best they can possibly be, but also is not blind to or fearful of tackling any obstacles needed to overcome to get there, ultimately trying to achieve a balance, harmony, equilibrium etc. Would that be an idealist or something else?

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    I like this question, but I don’t know if it is an English question or close to a philosophy question - philosophy.stackexchange.com or even psychology - psychology.stackexchange.com
    – k1eran
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 1:57
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    "I am basically looking for a noun of a person that tries to make things the best they can possibly be" OP is looking for a word with a specific meaning, so this is definitely English-related
    – thesilican
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 2:56
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    There is not always a middle ground for English antonyms. True/False. Pass/Fail
    – k1eran
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 3:11
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    @k1eran: True/False has so many middle ground words.
    – Joshua
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 15:10
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    They forgot 'Engineer' in the image above, "The glass was specified twice as large as required."
    – Glen Yates
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 17:57

2 Answers 2


Perhaps this is the word you're looking for:

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.

{William Arthur Ward}

Collins defines realist thus:

A realist is someone who recognizes and accepts the true nature of a situation and tries to deal with it in a practical way.


Many thanks to @Lawrence for highlighting the distinction between idealist and realist, which was vital for a comprehensive answer.

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    That's great. I am wondering though if an "idealist" could not also fit in the above example? Since wouldn't they theoretically see the issue, and want the ideal outcome and so adjust the sails as well?
    – FrontEnd
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 13:38
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    From the internet: There is a subtle yet important difference between idealism and realism. An idealist imagines what an ideal world would look like and then takes steps accordingly towards that ideal world. A realist, on the other hand, sees the world as it really is now, and considers how to improve it, one step at a time.
    – user405662
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 13:55
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    @FrontEnd The term idealist relates to intent or desire while pessimist, realist and optimist deal with perception or expectation. Hence idealist isn’t ‘between’ pessimist and optimist. It’s on a different dimension.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 13:56
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    You’re welcome. Feel free to use the comment in your answer.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 14:21
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    Thematically similar enough to I think not warrant its own answer is pragmatist (which also has an overloaded philosophical meaning)
    – thehole
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 2:26

Perhaps "pragmatist" is somewhere in the middle, neither optimistic nor pessimistic but concerned more with matters of fact than with what could or should be.

  • Yep, I think "pragmatist" is better than "realist." To me, "realist" implies that the individual's interpretation of reality is somehow accurate. Whereas "optimist", "pessimist", and "pragmatist" connote a degree of indifference about whether the individual's interpretation is actually accurate, and are more concerned with the manner of interpretation itself.
    – lmonninger
    Commented Dec 31, 2021 at 20:44

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