cat·​e·​gor·​i·​cal ˌka-tə-ˈgȯr-i-kəl How to pronounce categorical (audio)
variants or less commonly categoric
: absolute, unqualified
a categorical denial
: of, relating to, or constituting a category
: involving, according with, or considered with respect to specific categories
a categorical system for classifying books
categorically 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 sometimes describe 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 But categorical discrimination sometimes is appropriate, such as discrimination favoring education, experience, or the ability to speak more than one language. Dan Eaton, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Feb. 2024 Hinkle, in his ruling, said the state claims its actions are not a categorical ban because applicants can still apply for a waiver to be exempted. Romy Ellenbogen, Miami Herald, 1 Feb. 2024 The categorical pardon builds on a similar round issued just before the 2022 midterm elections that pardoned thousands convicted of simple possession on federal lands. Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports,, 23 Dec. 2023 Political opponents have been more categorical in rejecting elections, which before the Russian invasion were scheduled for March and April next year, saying the war was creating too much turmoil to properly conduct a vote. Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times, 5 Oct. 2023 Michael Stephens, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in Philadelphia, is categorical about his future. Alexander Smith, NBC News, 26 Oct. 2023 The state also had categorical funds, additional state dollars allocated to schools for special needs, English language learners and other kinds of students. Neal Earley, Arkansas Online, 3 Oct. 2023 Without giving away a key part of the book, Barnes writes that there is no scientific or empirical evidence to support the categorical bans on trans student athlete participation that have become law in 23 states. Jo Yurcaba, NBC News, 22 Sep. 2023 In that decision, the high court suggested that some types of categorical weapon bans remained presumptively constitutional. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 9 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'categorical.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1588, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of categorical was in 1588


Dictionary Entries Near categorical

Cite this Entry

“Categorical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


cat·​e·​gor·​i·​cal ˌkat-ə-ˈgȯr-i-kəl How to pronounce categorical (audio)
variants also categoric
: not restricted or limited in any way : absolute
a categorical denial
: of, relating to, or being a category
categorically adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on categorical

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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