cat·​e·​gor·​i·​cal | \ˌka-tə-ˈgȯr-i-kəl, -ˈgär-\
variants: or less commonly categoric \-​ik \

Definition of categorical 

1 : absolute, unqualified a categorical denial

2a : of, relating to, or constituting a category

b : involving, according with, or considered with respect to specific categories a categorical system for classifying books

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Other Words from categorical

categorically \-​i-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Did You Know?

The ancestor of categorical and category has been important in logic and philosophy since the days of Aristotle. Both English words derive from Greek katēgoria, which Aristotle used to name the 10 fundamental classes (also called "predications" or "assertions") of terms, things, or ideas into which he felt human knowledge could be organized. Ironically, although those categories and things categorical are supposed to be absolute and fundamental, philosophers have long argued about the number and type of categories that exist and their role in understanding the world. High-level philosophical disputes aside, the word categorical continues to refer to an absolute assertion, one that involves no conditions or hypotheses (for example, the statement "all humans are mortal").

Examples of categorical in a Sentence

He issued a categorical denial about his involvement in the deal. a categorical denial of the rumors that the celebrities were planning to get married

Recent Examples on the Web

At this point, the next logical step is for the committee to follow up on this allegation and the categorical denial from the judge. Fox News, "Kevin Hassett talks corporate tax cut, rising wages," 24 Sep. 2018 Apple and Amazon, for their part, responded with unusually specific and categorical denials. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Bloomberg stands by Chinese chip story as Apple, Amazon ratchet up denials," 5 Oct. 2018 The team is less categorical in recommendations for a large new reactor, known as the experimental light-water reactor, now being started up at Yongbyon. New York Times, "North Korea Nuclear Disarmament Could Take 15 Years, Expert Warns," 28 May 2018 The curtilage and rental cases were argued on the same day, Jan. 9, suggesting the justices were focused on paring back categorical powers that police have claimed to search vehicles without warrants. Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Police Need Warrants to Search Vehicles at Private Homes, High Court Rules," 29 May 2018 While the exact nature of that conversation remains in dispute, the Redstone entity that controls CBS, National Amusements, has made clear its categorical opposition to any takeover. James B. Stewart, New York Times, "A Battle for Control of CBS, With Far-Reaching Consequences," 16 May 2018 This is not to say that presenting Bach on the piano is any sort of categorical mistake. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The Rebel Harpsichordists," 14 May 2018 Kanye demonstrates the true potential of an artist and how creativity and innovation are gifts that supersede categorical limitations. Megan Armstrong, Billboard, "Meet the Childhood Friends Looking to Gamify the Music Industry With 'World Famous' Mobile App," 27 Apr. 2018 Where there was once no categorical restriction, Glendale will allow only those who qualify as a minor child, spouse or partner under the new rules. Jeff Landa,, "Glendale updates, streamlines its Section 8 housing plan," 11 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'categorical.' 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 categorical

1588, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for categorical

Late Latin categoricus, from Greek katēgorikos, from katēgoria — see category

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Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

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The first known use of categorical was in 1588

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English Language Learners Definition of categorical

: said in a very strong, clear, and definite way

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