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



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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 The trick to detecting invisible axions is speeding up this decay process, an idea originally suggested by theoretical physicists Pierre Sikivie and Lawrence Krauss. Emily Toomey, Smithsonian Magazine, "New Generation of Dark Matter Experiments Gear Up to Search for Elusive Particle," 3 Feb. 2020 These concerns seemed somewhat theoretical when they were first raised around 2006. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Judge orders Georgia to switch to paper ballots for 2020 elections," 16 Aug. 2019 The limits on the GM position’s power, the extent of which still seems somewhat theoretical, reportedly scared off some potential candidates. Brian Straus,, "U.S. Soccer Hires Earnie Stewart as First USMNT General Manager," 6 June 2018 In 2017, theoretical physicist Kip Thorne of Caltech and physicist Barry Barish of UC Berkeley and Caltech, along with physicist Rainier Weiss of MIT, were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their work with LIGO. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "The Deep Space Decade: How a New Era of Exploration Came of Age in the 2010s," 31 Dec. 2019 Also saluted for their contributions were oceanographer Walter Munk, known as the Einstein of the Oceans; renowned theoretical physicist Ann Nelson; and engineer Alan Pearlman of Newton, creator of the ARP synthesizer., "You're using a browser set to private or incognito mode.," 31 Dec. 2019 Köhler has done graduate work in physics; Tent Pauli, named for the theoretical physicist, is photographed from the outside, its entrance flaps lined with a string of paper lanterns. Anna Wiener, The New Yorker, "How Hipcamp Became the Airbnb of the Outdoors," 2 Dec. 2019 However, in 2015 theoretical physicists Haruki Watanabe and Masaki Oshikawa, now both at the University of Tokyo, proved that, strictly speaking, time crystals were impossible. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, "Back to the future: The original time crystal makes a comeback," 27 Nov. 2019 Still, some people like Allan H. MacDonald, a theoretical physicist at the University of Texas, thought that graphene’s mysteries had yet to be fully plumbed. Kenneth Chang, New York Times, "A Physics Magic Trick: Take 2 Sheets of Carbon and Twist," 30 Oct. 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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Time Traveler for theoretical

Time Traveler

The first known use of theoretical was in 1601

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Statistics for theoretical

Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Theoretical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce theoretical (audio)

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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