Occam's razor

Oc·​cam's razor | \ ˈä-kəmz- How to pronounce Occam's razor (audio) \
variants: or less commonly

Definition of Occam's razor

: a scientific and philosophical rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities

Did You Know?

William of Occam (also spelled "Ockham") didn't invent the rule associated with his name. Others had espoused the "keep it simple" concept before that 14th-century philosopher and theologian embraced it, but no one wielded the principle (also known as the law of parsimony) as relentlessly as he did. He used it to counter what he considered the fuzzy logic of his theological contemporaries, and his applications of it inspired 19th-century Scottish philosopher Sir William Hamilton to link Occam with the idea of cutting away extraneous material, giving us the modern name for the principle.

First Known Use of Occam's razor

1852, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for Occam's razor

William of Occam

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about Occam's razor

Time Traveler for Occam's razor

Time Traveler

The first known use of Occam's razor was in 1852

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about Occam's razor

Statistics for Occam's razor

Cite this Entry

“Occam's razor.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Occam%27s%20razor. Accessed 11 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Comments on Occam's razor

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!