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

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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 Eventually, those consequences will no longer be theoretical. Nathan Baird, cleveland, "Ohio State football’s recruiting rivalry with Alabama is about to get more real: Buckeye Take," 27 June 2020 This theoretical engine could drastically reduce the cost of getting to space. Daniel Oberhaus, Wired, "The Rocket Motor of the Future Breathes Air Like a Jet Engine," 26 June 2020 In addition to the Higgs, there were strong theoretical candidates, including potential dark matter particles, that were within the energy range reached by the LHC. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Europe officially sets its sights on a giant LHC successor," 25 June 2020 This is a dual-band router supporting two simultaneous spatial streams in each direction to deliver maximum theoretical throughput of 574Mbps on its 2.4GHz network and 1,201Mbps on its 5GHz network. Michael Brown, PCWorld, "Linksys announces $150 Max-Stream AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 router," 16 June 2020 Since no high-energy cosmic neutrinos had been discovered when IceCube was originally conceived, their flux was a theoretical guess. Daniel Oberhaus, Wired, "The Hunt Is On for Elusive Ghost Particles in Antarctica," 12 June 2020 If the township becomes a city in the future, leaders would choose a future policing model that could include a theoretical City of The Woodlands police force of some sort. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "Woodlands leaders: no plans to defund law enforcement," 10 June 2020 Fuller, a theoretical astrophysicist and assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, has a theory that both inner and outer moons of planets migrate away at similar rates. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Saturn's moon Titan is rapidly migrating away from the planet," 10 June 2020 Software engineers have developed theoretical designs for voting systems with end-to-end security. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Researchers say online voting tech used in 5 states is fatally flawed," 10 June 2020

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

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Theoretical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for theoretical


How to pronounce theoretical (audio)

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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