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 Carlo Rovelli, a theoretical physicist whose specialty is quantum gravity, is also one of the warmest, most elegant and most lucid interpreters to the laity of the dazzling enigmas of his discipline. John Banville, WSJ, 28 May 2021 But that background is not a prerequisite for success, says Raymond Orbach, a theoretical physicist and former chancellor of UC Irvine who directed the office from 2002 to 2009. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, 26 May 2021 According to a formula derived in 1928 by Paul Dirac, the English theoretical physicist and a founder of quantum theory, the g factor of a lone muon should be 2. New York Times, 7 Apr. 2021 Vaccines may be available for children over 2 by September at the earliest, so these concerns are theoretical at the moment. Jessica Grose, New York Times, 12 May 2021 The power of this group of moderates in the legislative process is not merely theoretical. Lanhee Chen, CNN, 30 Apr. 2021 The concern that there might be a nonspecific increase in immune activity, including reactivation of targets of autoimmune disease, is theoretical, and there is not much support for it in the medical literature. Dr. Keith Roach, oregonlive, 30 Apr. 2021 For Buse, the concept of AI decolonization offers a theoretical framework in which power can be challenged in the context of emerging AI and related technologies. Hessie Jones, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2021 Today, these source texts remain entirely theoretical — not a single scrap of ancient manuscript for any of them has yet been found. Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times, 10 Mar. 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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Last Updated

11 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Theoretical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 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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