hy·​po·​thet·​i·​cal | \ˌhī-pə-ˈthe-ti-kəl \

Definition of hypothetical 

: involving or being based on a suggested idea or theory : being or involving a hypothesis : conjectural hypothetical arguments a hypothetical situation

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Other Words from hypothetical

hypothetical noun
hypothetically \ ˌhī-​pə-​ˈthe-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for hypothetical


academic (also academical), conjectural, speculative, suppositional, theoretical (also theoretic)


actual, factual, real

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Examples of hypothetical in a Sentence

She described a hypothetical case to clarify her point. we talked about what we would do in various hypothetical emergencies

Recent Examples on the Web

While the Agreement states that a driver may negotiate his own rate, this right is hypothetical rather than real. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Grubhub drivers are contractors—not employees—judge rules," 8 Feb. 2018 The hypothetical storm would require search and rescue resources across 75 percent of the island. Arelis R. Hernandez And Joel Achenbach, chicagotribune.com, "Failure of imagination hindered federal response to hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico," 14 July 2018 In the hypothetical New York City attack, if the sources couldn’t be tracked down quickly and neutralized, the consequences would be wide reaching. Allison Barrie, Fox News, "Innovative project harnesses Legos and smartphones in the fight against invisible, deadly weapons," 13 July 2018 Last week, the Fed announced that all 35 firms subject to the test—including Bank of America—would survive a hypothetical downturn. Rachel Louise Ensign, WSJ, "Bank of America Raising Dividend to 60 Cents a Share," 28 June 2018 If banks' capital levels fall too far in the tests, which subject them to hypothetical economic downturns, the Fed can block their plans to increase dividends or buy back more shares. Deon Roberts, charlotteobserver, "Charlotte's big banks plan to boost their dividends, buy back more stock," 28 June 2018 Who knows, of course, how a hypothetical Justice Garland would have ruled in any particular case. Jay Willis, GQ, "Mitch McConnell's Stolen Supreme Court Seat Is Already Fucking Up America," 26 June 2018 Case in point: Even as President Donald Trump’s deregulatory agenda sweeps through Washington, the Fed said last month that its 2018 assessments will subject banks to a more severe hypothetical economic downturn than last year’s version. Jesse Hamilton, Bloomberg.com, "Fed Still Reigns Supreme Over Banks, Despite Dodd-Frank Rewrite," 20 Mar. 2018 But despite having no experience in elective office, Jealous performs just as well in a hypothetical matchup against Hogan as more seasoned rivals such as Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. Michael Dresser, baltimoresun.com, "Democrat Ben Jealous pitches health care for all, free college tuition in bid for Maryland governor," 18 May 2018

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

1588, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

8 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for hypothetical

The first known use of hypothetical was in 1588

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English Language Learners Definition of hypothetical

: involving or based on a suggested idea or theory : involving or based on a hypothesis

: not real : imagined as an example


hy·​po·​thet·​i·​cal | \ˌhī-pə-ˈthe-ti-kəl \

Kids Definition of hypothetical

1 : involving or based on a hypothesis

2 : imagined as an example for further thought a hypothetical situation

Other Words from hypothetical

hypothetically adverb speaking hypothetically

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Comments on hypothetical

What made you want to look up hypothetical? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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