In the present chapter we propose to try to give a definition of a word with which every student of philosophy must sooner or later come to grips, namely, realism. In asking what the word realism means we are endeavouring to arrive at an objective definition—a definition, that is to say, that will give us a clear and distinct idea of the concept for which the word has come to stand. In philosophy such objective definitions are neither easy to come by nor identical with other definitions, and the difference between philosophical and other definitions is a difference to which we should pay particular attention at the outset. Words standing for concepts of this kind are not mere labels affixed at some remote time and adhering by accidental custom; they represent historic habits of speech with associations of meaning to which time and usage have given sanction. As applied to such concepts, therefore, objective meaning signifies not something given and unchanging, but something that has taken time, often amounting to many centuries, to come to be what it is. In other words, objective meaning is the same as historical meaning. A word means what it has come to mean. To ignore the process that has made up its present meaning is to involve oneself in serious confusion. Words can even hit back at those who thus abuse them, and at those who become the victims of such abuse; and on such occasions a man’s conversation or written words may often betray loose thinking and falsification without his being aware of the fact.