em·​pir·​i·​cism | \ im-ˈpir-ə-ˌsi-zəm How to pronounce empiricism (audio) , em- \

Definition of empiricism

1a : a former school of medical practice founded on experience without the aid of science or theory
2a : the practice of relying on observation and experiment especially in the natural sciences
b : a tenet arrived at empirically
3 : a theory that all knowledge originates in experience

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Other Words from empiricism

empiricist \ im-​ˈpir-​ə-​sist How to pronounce empiricism (audio) , em-​ \ noun

Examples of empiricism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The whole tradition of British empiricism that followed on from Locke is defined by this prioritization of the physical over the spiritual and the transcendent. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "England’s Most Underrated Political Philosopher," 23 Apr. 2021 For a community putatively committed to scientific empiricism, this is an extraordinary conviction. Ben Ehrenreich, The New Republic, "We’re Hurtling Toward Global Suicide," 18 Mar. 2021 Even in his own day, Hobsbawm could sense lurking objections to the basic ideas of the Enlightenment – the great outpouring of reason, empiricism, and egalitarian values that kicked off in the late 17th century. Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor, "The Enlightenment stressed not only reason, but also empathy," 24 Feb. 2021 There are competing accounts of the authorship of this affirmation of the importance of empiricism to the intellectual method. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "An Open Mind Is the Key to the Post-Covid Economy," 22 Feb. 2021 The arrival of Nate Silver in 2008, alongside other rigorous statisticians critiquing the media’s use of polls, was a refreshing burst of empiricism. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "Polling is driving us mad, but the alternative would be much worse," 2 Nov. 2020 Together, these ideas gave the new school of thought its name, logical empiricism. Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker, "Philosophy in the Shadow of Nazism," 12 Oct. 2020 The variation in the scaling of each section implies a sense of discontinuity, but also the same spirit of cartographic empiricism that speaks through the wider statistical maps of the 19th century. Popular Science, "Infographics have helped keep us alive for centuries," 7 Sep. 2020 But even the implications Hilditch draws from his armchair empiricism are faulty. Aaron Rhodes, National Review, "The American Understanding of Natural Rights," 24 Aug. 2020

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

1658, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for empiricism

empiric + -ism

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Time Traveler for empiricism

Time Traveler

The first known use of empiricism was in 1658

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Statistics for empiricism

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Empiricism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empiricism. Accessed 10 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of empiricism

: the practice of basing ideas and theories on testing and experience


em·​pir·​i·​cism | \ im-ˈpir-ə-ˌsiz-əm, em- How to pronounce empiricism (audio) \

Medical Definition of empiricism

1a : a former school of medical practice based on the teachings of the empirics
b : quackery
2 : the practice of relying on observation and experiment especially in the natural sciences

More from Merriam-Webster on empiricism

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about empiricism

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