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 theoretical (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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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.
Recent Examples on the Web The effect takes its name from the theoretical physicist Bill Unruh, who described his eponymous phenomenon in 1976. Joanna Thompson, Scientific American, 20 May 2022 Ben Roy Mottelson, an American Danish theoretical physicist who shared a Nobel Prize for revealing how the motion of protons and neutrons could distort the shape of the nuclei of atoms, died May 13. Dylan Loeb Mcclain,, 19 May 2022 When British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died in 2018, Vangelis composed a musical tribute for his interment that the ESA broadcast into space. Nicholas Paphitis, USA TODAY, 19 May 2022 When British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died in 2018, Vangelis composed a musical tribute for his interment that the ESA broadcast into space. Los Angeles Times, 19 May 2022 After the war started, theoretical physicist and astronomer Oleksiy Golubov left Kharkiv to join his parents in Batkiv, a village in western Ukraine. Christina Larson, ajc, 7 May 2022 German theoretical physicist Max Planck suggests that radiation energy is emitted, not continuously, but rather in discrete packets called quanta. Gil Press, Forbes, 14 Apr. 2022 For all its historical and theoretical brilliance, The Dawn of Everything does not wholly vindicate the anarchist philosophical framework in which the argument is set. George Scialabba, The New Republic, 1 Nov. 2021 This question has to be theoretical right now, as the hardest insight to glean from these practices is what the defense will look like. Nate Atkins, The Indianapolis Star, 7 June 2022 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of theoretical was in 1601

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Dictionary Entries Near theoretical

theorem of Pythagoras



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Last Updated

23 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Theoretical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

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