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 empiric (audio) , em-​ How to pronounce empiric (audio) \

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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web This was, in any case, the bargain that was made in the seventeenth century, when Descartes and Galileo deemed consciousness a subjective phenomenon unfit for empirical study. Meghan O’gieblyn, The New Yorker, "Do We Have Minds of Our Own?," 4 Dec. 2019 Data on the impact of record-sealing is hard to come by, but in March, two University of Michigan law professors released a first-of-its-kind empirical study, which found numerous advantages. Natalie Yahr, chicagotribune.com, "Wisconsin lawmakers seeking to expunge marijuana convictions," 28 Oct. 2019 Irving produced the first empirical study proving the existence of the digital divide and is credited with coining the term, one of the reasons he was selected as an inductee. Leah Asmelash, CNN, "Larry Irving is the first African American inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame," 27 Sep. 2019 Finally, schools and colleges have replaced the empirical study of economics, history and politics with race, class and gender indoctrination. Victor Davis Hanson, The Mercury News, "Victor Davis Hanson: Why socialism, and why now?," 30 Aug. 2019 Negotiating with leopards Scientists, conservationists and government agencies largely rely on formal studies that use empirical data to understand wildlife. Bhanu Sridharan, Quartz India, "In a Himalayan Indian village, “leopards escort humans safely”," 24 Dec. 2019 One missing piece of the puzzle is the limited empirical data on the views of people whose biosamples are taken in the name of research. Keymanthri Moodley, Quartz Africa, "Africa’s genetic material is still being misused," 23 Dec. 2019 The National Endowment for the Arts wants the program to generate empirical data as part of the grant. Madeline Buckley, chicagotribune.com, "‘Someone shot, but the clock didn’t stop’: Learning Shakespeare and writing sonnets in youth prison," 30 Nov. 2019 Doctors have been cautious about prescribing given a lack of official guidance and a lack of empirical data on long-term effects. Robert Iddiols, CNN, "Kids with epilepsy are the victims of the UK's medical cannabis stalemate," 28 Sep. 2019

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for empirical

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The first known use of empirical was in 1576

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Last Updated

23 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Empirical.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empirical. Accessed 26 January 2020.

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More Definitions for empirical


How to pronounce empirical (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of empirical

: based on testing or experience


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

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Comments on empirical

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to express in a more acceptable way

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