ap·​prox·​i·​ma·​tion | \ ə-ˌpräk-sə-ˈmā-shən How to pronounce approximation (audio) \

Definition of approximation

1 : the act or process of drawing together
2 : the quality or state of being close or near an approximation to the truth an approximation of justice
3 : something that is approximate especially : a mathematical quantity that is close in value to but not the same as a desired quantity

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Other Words from approximation

approximative \ ə-​ˈpräk-​sə-​ˌmā-​tiv How to pronounce approximation (audio) \ adjective

Examples of approximation in a Sentence

This isn't an exact figure but I think it's a good approximation of what the land is worth. The color of the paint isn't the exact same color as the vase, but it's a close approximation.
Recent Examples on the Web Neither Russia nor China is anywhere close to becoming either a commercial republic, or even an approximation of one. John C. “chuck” Chalberg, Star Tribune, "The 'end of history' was exaggerated," 23 Jan. 2021 Fortunately, data on viral load — or at least a rough approximation of it — is readily available, built into results from the P.C.R. tests that most labs use to diagnose a coronavirus infection. New York Times, "You’re Infected With the Coronavirus. But How Infected?," 29 Dec. 2020 Those continuing claims are an approximation of the number of unemployed workers receiving benefits. Eric Morath, WSJ, "What Happens to Covid-19 Unemployment Benefits in 2021? Here’s What We Know.," 26 Dec. 2020 This is why every answer offered since the 1700s has been an approximation as well. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "A Mathematician Has Finally Solved the Infamous Goat Problem," 24 Dec. 2020 Charm resists calculation; even if actors get some going, even if a writer creates an approximation in or between the lines, deliberately manufactured charm curdles so easily. Michael Phillips,, "‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ review: Faith and begorrah, it’ll most likely bore ya," 9 Dec. 2020 Ring lights are a quick-and-dirty approximation of a professional lighting setup. Amanda Mull, The Atlantic, "Americans Got Tired of Looking Bad on Zoom," 19 Nov. 2020 Before the pandemic, this was a fine approximation. Washington Post, "Unemployment statistics during the pandemic have been inflated by backlogs, according to GAO report," 30 Nov. 2020 Before the pandemic, this was a fine approximation. Eli Rosenberg Washington Post, Star Tribune, "GAO finds serious errors in unemployment data during COVID-19 pandemic," 30 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'approximation.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of approximation

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for approximation

Time Traveler

The first known use of approximation was in the 15th century

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Statistics for approximation

Last Updated

5 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Approximation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for approximation



English Language Learners Definition of approximation

: an amount, figure, etc., that is almost correct and is not intended to be exact : an approximate amount, figure, etc.
: something that is similar to something else


ap·​prox·​i·​ma·​tion | \ ə-ˌpräk-sə-ˈmā-shən How to pronounce approximation (audio) \

Kids Definition of approximation

1 : an estimate or figure that is not intended to be exact
2 : an act or the result of coming near or close The color isn't exactly the same, but it's a close approximation.

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