theoretical

adjective
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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for theoretical

Synonyms

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

Antonyms

actual, factual, real

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

At this point, though, the risk is purely theoretical. Jolene Edgar, Allure, "The Truth About Growth Factors in Skin Care and Why They're Controversial," 2 Aug. 2018 But Hawking’s careful theoretical work filled in some of the holes in physicists’ knowledge about black holes. Christoph Adami, Newsweek, "How Stephen Hawking's Black Hole Discoveries Rewrote Physics of Space-Time," 19 Mar. 2018 In a 1965 paper, a colleague, Roger Penrose, had done the theoretical work to demonstrate that singularities could exist. Mark Feeney, BostonGlobe.com, "Stephen Hawking, ground-breaking physicist, dead at 76," 14 Mar. 2018 These appearances aligned with a plucky wit that defined Hawking's personal life as much as his universe-shaking theoretical work. Kyle Swenson, chicagotribune.com, "Stephen Hawking's secret to surviving his terrible condition? A sense of humor.," 14 Mar. 2018 Curtis made his discovery near the end of the 1910s, a decade that had been rife with theoretical explosions about the nature of the universe. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "How They Got the Black Hole Picture That Changed Science," 10 Apr. 2019 And maybe another indication that having a kid is still a very theoretical prospect for me. Alyssa Mastromonaco, Marie Claire, "Alyssa Mastromonaco Explores Her Non-Decision to Not Have Kids," 5 Mar. 2019 The effort also aims to energize conservatives who might otherwise have sat out this November’s elections but now see a solid conservative majority on the nation’s highest court as more than a theoretical prospect. Massimo Calabresi, Time, "With Justice Kennedy Gone, It's Trump's Court Now," 28 June 2018 Ratcliff and Eric Libby, a theoretical biologist at Umeå University in Sweden, proposed 4 years ago that a ratcheting effect took over, driving an inexorable increase in complexity. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "The momentous transition to multicellular life may not have been so hard after all," 28 June 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about theoretical

Statistics for theoretical

Last Updated

12 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for theoretical

The first known use of theoretical was in 1601

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for theoretical

theoretical

adjective

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on theoretical

What made you want to look up theoretical? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

using a distributed computer network

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!