heu·​ris·​tic | \ hyu̇-ˈri-stik How to pronounce heuristic (audio) \

Definition of heuristic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery, or problem-solving by experimental and especially trial-and-error methods heuristic techniques a heuristic assumption also : of or relating to exploratory problem-solving techniques that utilize self-educating techniques (such as the evaluation of feedback) to improve performance a heuristic computer program


heu·​ris·​tic | \ hyu̇-ˈri-stik How to pronounce heuristic (audio) \

Definition of heuristic (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the study or practice of heuristic (see heuristic entry 1) procedure
2 : heuristic (see heuristic entry 1) argument
3 : a heuristic (see heuristic entry 1) method or procedure

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Other Words from heuristic


heuristically \ hyu̇-​ˈri-​sti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce heuristically (audio) \ adverb

Examples of heuristic in a Sentence

Adjective If Orbitz prevails, its online reservation process alone may blow away the competition. Unlike mainframe-based systems …  , Orbitz uses racks of PCs to search fare data, making it easier to scale up computing power. And its intelligent … algorithms evaluate all the possible fares simultaneously instead of employing heuristic shortcuts designed to use as little computing power as possible. — Evan Ratliff, WIRED, September 2000 Because "tradition" has served as a powerful heuristic term, we are always in danger of reifying it … — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Reading Black, Reading Feminist, 1990 Its heuristic principle would be St. Augustine's axiom that the Old Testament is revealed in the New and the New concealed in the Old … — V. B. Leitch, American Literary Criticism from the Thirties to the Eighties, 1988 Noun "Cult" is best understood not as a descriptor, but as a command, like a law officer's "Halt!" Its purpose is to stop and contain. A more useful heuristic would be to identify precisely the most disturbing practices, beliefs, or incidents in the world of a "cult" … — Robert A. Orsi, Commonweal, 6 Oct. 2000 Search engines … use heuristics to determine the way in which to order—and thereby prioritize—pages. — Soumen Chakrabarti et al., Scientific American, June 1999
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The study compared the heuristic’s collective mortality rates with those of possible triage scenarios. Jim Daley, Scientific American, "How to Triage Patients Who Need Intensive Care," 20 Mar. 2020 The researchers also examined how the heuristic worked when additional patient health conditions were added. Jim Daley, Scientific American, "How to Triage Patients Who Need Intensive Care," 20 Mar. 2020 For now, this idea of visualizing quantum objects by means of bubbles or elastic balloons is just a fun heuristic exercise. Quanta Magazine, "How to Tame Quantum Weirdness," 16 Feb. 2017 Producers, directors, and writers should understand that viewers today are enlisting a decision-making heuristic similar to the one Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes used to determine which suitors deserved her limited supply of contraceptive sponges. Daniel H. Pink, The Atlantic, "The Future of Television Is Being Able to Pick Shows by Length," 11 June 2018 My heuristic trap was compounded by overconfidence in the F-150’s AdvanceTrac system, Ford’s version of the anti-lock braking system, or A.B.S., installed on all newer cars and trucks. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker, "Black Ice, Near-Death, and Transcendence on I-91," 2 Apr. 2018 Spontaneous bursts of creativity arise from the heuristic and sometimes nonsensical logic of the human thought. Joseph Dussault, The Christian Science Monitor, "Can a machine be creative?," 8 Dec. 2017 Here, twenty-two-year-old Ivan Nikolayovitch from the flyspeck hamlet of Dubovi Makharyntsi found — one way or another — his literal and heuristic home in Hitler's world. Scott Raab, Esquire, "John Demjanjuk: The Last Nazi," 11 Aug. 2010 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Green and Daniels write that this kind of intuitive correction is a heuristic honed over years of practice and constant feedback. Keith Law, Wired, "Human Fallibility and the Case for Robot Baseball Umpires," 1 May 2020 Research by behavioral economists like Richard Thaler, the Nobel laureate, found that many people have used simple rules, or heuristics, to guide their behavior in benign ways. Jeff Sommer, New York Times, "A Big, Once-Reliable Source of Investor Cash Is Drying Up," 24 Apr. 2020 Hormonal heuristics Ambiguities abound in the science of weight regain. Daniel Engber, Scientific American, "Unexpected Clues Emerge About Why Diets Fail," 13 Jan. 2020 Performing well on the NBME’s exams often relies heavily on heuristics. Vishal Khetpal, STAT, "Testing medical students is big business. I see it as extortion," 20 Mar. 2020 That year, Edward Farhi, then at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, proposed another heuristic, or best-guess, approach called the quantum approximation optimization algorithm (QAOA). Michael Brooks, Scientific American, "Beyond Quantum Supremacy: The Hunt for Useful Quantum Computers," 3 Oct. 2019 Intuitive decisions can be grounded in heuristics: simple rules of thumb. Laura Kutsch, Scientific American, "Can We Rely on Our Intuition?," 15 Aug. 2019 This is a terrible heuristic if you’re being chased by a bear. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, "Putting America’s Problems in Perspective," 9 Aug. 2019 As a result, there is good experimental evidence to support the Cohen-Lenstra heuristics. Kevin Hartnett, Quanta Magazine, "New Number Systems Seek Their Lost Primes," 2 Mar. 2017

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


1821, in the meaning defined above


1860, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for heuristic

Adjective and Noun

German heuristisch, from New Latin heuristicus, from Greek heuriskein to discover; akin to Old Irish fo-fúair he found

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Time Traveler for heuristic

Time Traveler

The first known use of heuristic was in 1821

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Statistics for heuristic

Cite this Entry

“Heuristic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heuristic. Accessed 24 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for heuristic


How to pronounce heuristic (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of heuristic

formal : using experience to learn and improve

More from Merriam-Webster on heuristic

Nglish: Translation of heuristic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of heuristic for Arabic Speakers

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