theoretical

adjective
the·​o·​ret·​i·​cal | \ ˌthē-ə-ˈre-ti-kəl, ˌthir-ˈe-ti-kəl\
variants: or less commonly theoretic \ ˌthē-​ə-​ˈre-​tik , 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

Synonyms

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

Antonyms

actual, factual, real

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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

Stephen Hawking Pioneering theoretical physicist and inspiration for the film The Theory of Everything died at age 76 in March. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "In Memoriam: All of the Celebrities, Politicians, and Notable People Who Died in 2018," 13 Dec. 2018 On 1631 Part of 732’s (theoretical) appeal to conservatives was its libertarian spirit. David Roberts, Vox, "Washington votes no on a carbon tax — again," 6 Nov. 2018 The work, which tackles what theoretical physicists call ‘the information paradox,’ was completed in the days before Hawking’s death in March. Fox News, "Video from 2011 creates headaches for Sinema," 12 Oct. 2018 But for now, the rocket and spacecraft remain mostly theoretical, as SpaceX is devoting only about five percent of its time and resources to the new vehicles. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Rocket Report: SpaceX says it would launch weapons, Bezos plays for defense, too," 21 Sep. 2018 For humankind in general, these findings hint at an intriguing, if largely theoretical, prospect: that the maximum possible human lifespan — essentially, the species’ design limit — has not yet been reached. Melissa Healy, latimes.com, "Can humans reach even older age? We haven't maxed out yet, some scientists say," 28 June 2018 While a Muslim citizen was theoretical, a Catholic one was not. Elahe Izadi, Washington Post, "Thomas Jefferson and the long history of defending Muslim rights," 26 June 2018 But while the ideas at the federal level are still mostly theoretical, some states have begun tackling the issue themselves. Katie Thomas, New York Times, "A Drug Costs $272,000 a Year. Not So Fast, Says New York State.," 24 June 2018 For one, the Facebook ban is only theoretical, at least for now. Louise Matsakis, WIRED, "Papua New Guinea Wants to Ban Facebook. It Shouldn't," 30 May 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.

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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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Last Updated

6 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for theoretical

The first known use of theoretical was in 1601

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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

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involving abstract or general statements

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