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adjective em·pir·i·cal \im-ˈpir-i-kəl\

Simple Definition of empirical

  • : based on testing or experience

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of empirical

  1. 1 :  originating in or based on observation or experience <empirical data>

  2. 2 :  relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory <an empirical basis for the theory>

  3. 3 :  capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment <empirical laws>

  4. 4 :  of or relating to empiricism

empirically play \-i-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of empirical in a sentence

  1. Eventually, access to electron microscopes and X-ray diffraction technology provided the necessary empirical evidence to test the hypotheses, and the jigsaw pieces began to fall into place. —Gail Nichols, Ceramics Monthly, February 2002

  2. No religion, new or old, is subject to empirical proof, so what we have is a contest between faiths. —Harvey Cox, Atlantic, March 1999

  3. They collected plenty of empirical data from their experiments.

  4. <guidelines for raising children that are based on empirical evidence>

Did You Know?

When empirical first appeared as an adjective in English, it meant simply "in the manner of an empiric." An empiric was a member of an ancient sect of doctors who practiced medicine based exclusively on experience, as contrasted with those who relied on theory or philosophy. The name empiric derives from Latin empiricus, itself from Greek empeirikos ("experienced"). It ultimately traces back to the verb peiran, meaning "to try, attempt, or experiment."

Variants of empirical

also empiric play \-ik\

Origin of empirical

(see empiric)

First Known Use: 1569

Medical Dictionary


adjective em·pir·i·cal \-i-kəl\

Medical Definition of empirical

  1. 1archaic a:  following or used in the practice of the empirics—compare rational 2b:  being or befitting a quack or charlatan

  2. 2:  originating in or based on observation or experiment <much medical lore had had an empirical origin…centuries of trial-and-error gropings after remedies—R. H. Shryock>

  3. 3:  capable of being confirmed, verified, or disproved by observation or experiment <empirical statements or laws>

empirically \-i-k(ə-)lē\play adverb

Variants of empirical

also empiric \-ik\play

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up empirical? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a timid, meek, or unassertive person

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