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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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 person on planet Earth who may have come up with the most expansive conception of spatial infinity is the theoretical physicist Andrei Linde, a professor at Stanford University. Alan Lightman, The Atlantic, "‘It Seems That I Know How the Universe Originated’," 8 Feb. 2021 Albert Einstein is awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his work in theoretical physics. Marc Bona, cleveland, "100 years ago: 1921 in news, entertainment, American life, famous firsts, world affairs, more," 19 Jan. 2021 Should a judge in a theoretical H-1B case decide the same, the rule could be struck down for the sole reason that Mr. Wolf didn’t have the authority to issue it. Michelle Hackman, WSJ, "New Rules for H-1B Visas: What You Need to Know," 7 Oct. 2020 Note, however, that even in that theoretical case, her view was that the judge should not try to force the law to comply with the dictates of her faith. The Editors, National Review, "Amy Coney Barrett Is an Exceptional Nominee for the Supreme Court," 28 Sep. 2020 Conversely, the theoretical case for axions’ existence is compelling to many physicists. Dan Falk, Scientific American, "Is Dark Matter Made of Axions?," 23 June 2020 But some physicists say new theoretical work is injecting excitement into the quandary. Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American, "The Cosmological Constant Is Physics’ Most Embarrassing Problem," 1 Feb. 2021 For now, the problems posed by vaccine hesitancy are mostly theoretical—few COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and distributed so far, meaning the main concern is supply rather than demand. David Meyer, Fortune, "Good news: COVID-19 vaccine skepticism is waning. Bad news: That might not be enough," 22 Jan. 2021 At the same time, any risks of vaccination are theoretical. Christopher Snowbeck, Star Tribune, "HealthPartners studying COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant women," 7 Jan. 2021

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

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Theoretical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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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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