the·​o·​ret·​i·​cal | \ ˌthē-ə-ˈre-ti-kəl How to pronounce theoretical (audio) , ˌthir-ˈe-ti-kəl\
variants: or less commonly theoretic \ ˌthē-​ə-​ˈre-​tik How to pronounce theoretic (audio) , ˌthir-​ˈe-​tik \

Definition of theoretical

1 : existing only in theory : hypothetical gave as an example a theoretical situation
2a : relating to or having the character of theory : abstract
b : confined to theory or speculation often in contrast to practical applications : speculative theoretical physics
3 : given to or skilled in theorizing a brilliant theoretical physicist

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Synonyms & Antonyms for theoretical


academic (also academical), conjectural, hypothetical, speculative, suppositional


actual, factual, real

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Examples of theoretical in a Sentence

On a theoretical level, hiring more people seems logical. The idea is purely theoretical at this point. The danger is more than just a theoretical possibility.
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Recent Examples on the Web

But by then the question had become largely theoretical in the wake of a series of court rulings adverse to compulsory busing. Eric Zorn,, "Column: Say it was so, Joe! Biden was right to oppose busing in the ’70s," 2 July 2019 There’s simply no data supporting an increase nor a strong theoretical foundation to expect one. Washington Post, "The Mexico hailstorm was uncommon and enormous, but not something new," 2 July 2019 Its stakes remain theoretical; its superheroic violence remains fun. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "Review: “Spider-Man: Far from Home” Presents the Illusion of a Good Movie," 1 July 2019 At the upper limit, absolute hot is a theoretical furnace where the laws of physics melt away. Stephen Ornes, Discover Magazine, "What Does Absolute Zero Mean?," 30 June 2019 Operating at their theoretical best, such devices can only produce 1.6 L/h/m2. Robert F. Service, Science | AAAS, "New solar technology could produce clean drinking water for millions in need," 28 June 2019 My sense is that until 2018, multipolarity was a more theoretical concept—more something to write about than to witness. K.n.c., The Economist, "Globalisation is dead and we need to invent a world order," 28 June 2019 Dolby's option offers a few theoretical benefits over rival formats like HDR-10. Anna Washenko, Ars Technica, "Amazon takes on TCL’s Roku TV with low-cost HDR Fire TV," 24 June 2019 Reddish’s size, ability to move the ball and hit open shots, and potential defensive versatility are still strengths, and his theoretical skill set fits neatly into the modern NBA. Charlotte Carroll,, "2019 NBA Draft Grades: Hawks Select Cam Reddish with No. 10 Pick," 20 June 2019

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

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for theoretical

Late Latin theoreticus, from Greek theōrētikos, from theōrein to look at

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Statistics for theoretical

Last Updated

7 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for theoretical

The first known use of theoretical was in 1601

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More Definitions for theoretical



English Language Learners Definition of theoretical

: relating to what is possible or imagined rather than to what is known to be true or real
: relating to the general principles or ideas of a subject rather than the practical uses of those ideas

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Comments on theoretical

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