coun·​ter·​fac·​tu·​al | \ˌkau̇n-tər-ˈfak-chə-wəl, -chəl, -shwəl, -chü-əl\

Definition of counterfactual 

: contrary to fact counterfactual assumptions

Examples of counterfactual in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

In this counterfactual world, the storm looks significantly different. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "A quick simulation of Hurricane Florence done without climate change," 13 Sep. 2018 In short, Wakanda functions as counterfactual history. Naunihal Singh, Washington Post, "What ‘Black Panther’s’ Wakanda can teach us about Africa’s history — and its future," 28 Feb. 2018 Setting the political furor aside, how would political science assess its counterfactual analysis? Matthew Cebul, Washington Post, "How political science can shed light on the Holocaust Museum’s Syria report," 17 Oct. 2017 But the notion that 2020 will bear any resemblance to 1972 is built on a foundation of counterfactual history and willful misreading of contemporary politics. Bob Moser, New Republic, "Clintonian Democrats Are Peddling Myths to Cling to Power," 11 Oct. 2017 If only reconstructing counterfactual occurrences, as these scientists did for this protein, were as easy to do for other aspects of human history. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, "Evolution on steroids: Chance ruled in building an estrogen receptor," 20 Sep. 2017 The memo targeted Google’s unconscious bias programs as examples of the company pandering to political correctness over the author’s sexist, counterfactual understanding of evolutionary biology. April Glaser, Slate Magazine, "Google Was Right to Fire the Memo Writer," 8 Aug. 2017 Respondents consistently say things that are counterfactual or plainly nuts. David A. Graham, The Atlantic, "Do Republicans Actually Want to Postpone the 2020 Election?," 10 Aug. 2017 The one very tangible counterfactual difference between a Trump and Clinton presidency is that in the latter there would be no Justice Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Where Would We Be Politically If Hillary Clinton Had Won?," 23 June 2017

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

1946, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

20 Nov 2018

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The first known use of counterfactual was in 1946

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