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Realistic vs. Attainable: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Aimie Carlson || Updated on November 10, 2023
Realistic refers to pertaining to an accurate, lifelike, or practical representation of reality. Attainable refers to capable of being achieved or accomplished within available means or

Key Differences

Realistic refers to something that accurately represents or resembles real life, often focusing on practicality and truthfulness. Attainable denotes the possibility of achieving or accomplishing something, emphasizing feasibility and achievability.
When describing goals, realistic suggests they are grounded in reality and practical, considering current limitations and resources. Attainable goals, however, specifically imply that they can be achieved with the resources and time available.
In art or literature, realistic describes a style that faithfully depicts life as it is, without idealization. Attainable, in a different context, could describe something that can be easily acquired or reached, such as a skill or knowledge.
Realistic expectations are based on what is likely to happen, considering known factors and past experiences. Attainable expectations are those that one has the ability or opportunity to fulfill.
Realistic often involves a critical and objective assessment of situations, avoiding over-optimism or pessimism. Attainable focuses more on the practical aspect of whether a goal or objective can realistically be met with the efforts and resources at hand.

Comparison Chart


Accuracy and lifelikeness in representation.
Achievability or accomplishment.


Often used in art, literature, and expectations.
Primarily used for goals, objectives, and aspirations.


Practicality and truthfulness.
Feasibility within available means.


Describes the nature of representation or expectation.
Describes the potential of achieving or acquiring something.


Grounded in reality and objective assessment.
Within the realm of possibility considering resources and circumstances.

Realistic and Attainable Definitions


In art, depicting subjects in a naturalistic and detailed manner.
His realistic paintings vividly capture the essence of rural life.


Realistic in the sense of being achievable or possible.
Setting attainable milestones is key to maintaining motivation.


Practically aware and sensible; pragmatic.
Her plan for the business was realistic and well-thought-out.


Able to be reached, achieved, or accomplished.
An attainable goal for the team is increasing sales by 10%.


Representing familiar things in a way that is accurate or true to life.
The movie provided a realistic portrayal of space travel.


Capable of being physically reached or accessed.
The top shelf is attainable with the use of a ladder.


Expectations or goals that are sensible and likely to be achieved.
Setting a realistic deadline is crucial for the project's success.


Within reach in terms of effort or resources required.
With diligent study, a passing grade is certainly attainable.


Accepting and dealing with things as they are; practical and pragmatic.
Her realistic approach to challenges made her an effective leader.


To gain as an objective; achieve
Attain a diploma by hard work.


Tending to or expressing an awareness of things as they really are
She gave us a realistic appraisal of our chances.


To come to or arrive at, as through movement, growth, or the passage of time
Redwoods can attain a height of 300 feet.


Of or relating to the representation of objects, actions, or social conditions as they actually are
A realistic novel about coal mining.


To succeed in a directed effort, process, or progression
Attained to high office.
Eventually attained to wisdom.


Expressed or represented as being accurate, practicable, or not idealistic.
A realistic appraisal of the situation.


Able to be accomplished, achieved, or obtained.


Relating to the representation of objects, actions or conditions as they actually are or were.
A realistic novel about the Victorian poor.


Something that can be attained.


Of or pertaining to the realists; in the manner of the realists; characterized by realism rather than by imagination.


Capable of being attained or reached by efforts of the mind or body; capable of being compassed or accomplished by efforts directed to the object.
The highest pitch of perfection attainable in this life.


Aware or expressing awareness of things as they really are;
A realistic description
A realistic view of the possibilities
A realistic appraisal of our chances
The actors tried to create a realistic portrayal of the Africans


General Howe would not permit the purchase of those articles [clothes and blankets] in Philadelphia, and they were not attainable in the country.


Representing what is real; not abstract or ideal;
Realistic portraiture
A realistic novel
In naturalistic colors
The school of naturalistic writers


Capable of being attained or accomplished;
Choose an attainable goal
Art is not something that is come-at-able by dint of study


Of or relating to the philosophical doctrine of realism;
A realistic system of thought


Something that can be understood or grasped.
The concept he explained was complex but attainable.


How is realistic used in art?

To describe work that accurately depicts real life.

Can realistic apply to goals?

Yes, if they are practical and sensible.

Should goals always be attainable?

Ideally, to ensure they are achievable.

Can attainable refer to understanding something?

Yes, it can mean something is possible to understand.

What does realistic mean?

Accurate or lifelike representation of reality.

Are realistic expectations important?

Yes, they are crucial for sensible planning.

Does attainable imply success?

It implies potential success, not a guarantee.

What does attainable mean?

Capable of being achieved or accomplished.

Is attainable related to resources?

Yes, it considers available resources and effort.

Is attainable always achievable?

Yes, it refers to something that can be achieved.

Can realistic be subjective?

Yes, what's realistic can vary from person to person.

Can something be realistic but not attainable?

Yes, if it's practical but beyond current means to achieve.

How does realistic relate to expectations?

It means expectations are based on practical reality.

In what contexts is attainable used?

In setting goals, objectives, and learning.

Is realistic positive or negative?

It's neutral, focusing on accuracy and practicality.

Can a plan be both realistic and attainable?

Yes, if it's practical and achievable.

Can attainable change over time?

Yes, as circumstances and resources change.

Does realistic require evidence?

Often, as it's based on real-life accuracy.

Can something be attainable but not realistic?

Yes, if it’s achievable but not practical or sensible.

Is realistic a subjective judgement?

Partially, as it depends on one's perspective and experience.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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