em·​pir·​i·​cal | \ im-ˈpir-i-kəl How to pronounce empirical (audio) , em- \
variants: or less commonly empiric \ im-​ˈpir-​ik How to pronounce empirical (audio) , em-​ How to pronounce empirical (audio) \

Essential Meaning of empirical

: based on testing or experience They collected plenty of empirical data/evidence from their experiments. empirical laws

Full Definition of empirical

1 : originating in or based on observation or experience empirical data
2 : relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory an empirical basis for the theory
3 : capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment empirical laws
4 : of or relating to empiricism

Keep scrolling for more

Empirical Has Roots in Latin and Greek

When empirical first appeared as an adjective in English, it meant simply "in the manner of an empiric." An empiric was a member of an ancient sect of doctors who practiced medicine based exclusively on experience, as contrasted with those who relied on theory or philosophy. The name empiric derives from Latin empiricus, itself from Greek empeirikos ("experienced"). It ultimately traces back to the verb peiran, meaning "to try, attempt, or experiment."

Examples of empirical in a Sentence

Eventually, access to electron microscopes and X-ray diffraction technology provided the necessary empirical evidence to test the hypotheses, and the jigsaw pieces began to fall into place. — Gail Nichols, Ceramics Monthly, February 2002 No religion, new or old, is subject to empirical proof, so what we have is a contest between faiths. — Harvey Cox, Atlantic, March 1999 They collected plenty of empirical data from their experiments. guidelines for raising children that are based on empirical evidence
See More
Recent Examples on the Web In 2015, without empirical evidence or data that supported the decision, Florida became the only state to require high school girls’ lacrosse teams to wear protective headgear. Bill Pennington, New York Times, 8 Oct. 2021 On the experimental side, the advent of powerful new colliders had recently revealed the τ (tau) lepton as well as the charm and bottom quarks, providing empirical evidence for a third generation of particles. Ethan Siegel, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 First, there is no empirical evidence that efforts to communicate research to policymakers have been effective (Contandriopoulos, Lemire, Denis, & Tremblay, 2010). Jonathan Wai, Forbes, 30 Aug. 2021 Gradually, this consensus collapsed, as empirical evidence for neural theories of consciousness failed to materialize. John Horgan, Scientific American, 14 Aug. 2021 This, despite clear empirical evidence to the contrary. Mike Konczal, The New Republic, 4 Aug. 2021 Numerous empirical studies have demonstrated that large bank mergers threaten financial stability. Jeremy Kress, The Conversation, 27 July 2021 Rand said platforms like Facebook should partner with outside researchers on empirical studies about what does and doesn’t work to combat vaccine misinformation—and publicize the results. Gilad Edelman, Wired, 20 July 2021 Decades of empirical studies show that building up a domestic market is a necessary precursor to export success. Forbes, 29 June 2021

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

See More

First Known Use of empirical

1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for empirical

empiric "of physicians in ancient Greece and Rome holding that treatment should be based on observation rather than theory" (going back to Middle English emperic, borrowed from early Medieval Latin empīricus, borrowed from Greek empeirikós, "based on observation (of medical treatment), experienced") + -al entry 1 — more at empiric

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About empirical

Time Traveler for empirical

Time Traveler

The first known use of empirical was in 1576

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About empirical

Dictionary Entries Near empirical



empirical formula

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for empirical

Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Empirical.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empirical. Accessed 21 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon
Seen & Heard
People are talking about

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for empirical


em·​pir·​i·​cal | \ -i-kəl How to pronounce empirical (audio) \
variants: also empiric \ -​ik How to pronounce empirical (audio) \

Medical Definition of empirical

1 archaic
a : following or used in the practice of the empirics — compare rational sense 2
b : being or befitting a quack or charlatan
2 : originating in or based on observation or experiment much medical lore had had an empirical origin … centuries of trial-and-error gropings after remedies— R. H. Shryock
3 : capable of being confirmed, verified, or disproved by observation or experiment empirical statements or laws

Other Words from empirical

empirically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce empirical (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on empirical

Nglish: Translation of empirical for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of empirical for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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