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


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


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

And what new theoretical work there is supporting this remains sketchy and incoherent. Edward Lotterman, Twin Cities, "Real World Economics: ‘Inflation is solved’? Don’t bank on it," 28 July 2019 So a reduction of roughly 60 workers would be only a portion of that theoretical workforce. George Avalos, The Mercury News, "Nio USA cuts dozens of San Jose jobs, Chinese automaker says," 12 Sep. 2019 This, of course, is no longer a theoretical matter given the ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Annabelle Timsit, Quartz, "Who would you side with in a conflict between the US and Russia? Neither, say most Europeans," 10 Sep. 2019 Is that just the theoretical maximum for one pixel, and the actual maximum is going to be much lower in many situations? Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max: Hands-on with Apple’s new phones," 10 Sep. 2019 The average, theoretical return on a low-volatility index still would have outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index overall since 1972. Kevin Kelleher, Fortune, "This Little Noticed S&P Index Is Up 25% This Year—and Offers a Hedge Against Wild Market Swings," 5 Sep. 2019 Undeniably then, the need for affordable housing in Newington clearly outweighs the need to protect a public interest which the court has already labeled nothing more than a theoretical possibility. Kathleen Mcwilliams,, "Judge rules in favor of developer seeking to build affordable housing apartments in Newington," 4 Sep. 2019 While Work was at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, in 2013, he and his colleagues were surprised by the outcome of some classified Pentagon simulations of theoretical conflicts with China or Russia. The Atlantic, "Coming Soon to a Battlefield: Robots That Can Kill," 3 Sep. 2019 And this is far from being only a theoretical concern. Hannah Fry, The New Yorker, "What Statistics Can and Can’t Tell Us About Ourselves," 2 Sep. 2019

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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Statistics for theoretical

Last Updated

13 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for theoretical

The first known use of theoretical was in 1601

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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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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).


to wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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