heu·​ris·​tic | \ hyu̇-ˈri-stik How to pronounce heuristic (audio) \

Definition of heuristic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery, or problem-solving by experimental and especially trial-and-error methods heuristic techniques a heuristic assumption also : of or relating to exploratory problem-solving techniques that utilize self-educating techniques (such as the evaluation of feedback) to improve performance a heuristic computer program


heu·​ris·​tic | \ hyu̇-ˈri-stik How to pronounce heuristic (audio) \

Definition of heuristic (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the study or practice of heuristic (see heuristic entry 1) procedure
2 : heuristic (see heuristic entry 1) argument
3 : a heuristic (see heuristic entry 1) method or procedure

Other Words from heuristic


heuristically \ hyu̇-​ˈri-​sti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce heuristic (audio) \ adverb

Examples of heuristic in a Sentence

Adjective If Orbitz prevails, its online reservation process alone may blow away the competition. Unlike mainframe-based systems …  , Orbitz uses racks of PCs to search fare data, making it easier to scale up computing power. And its intelligent … algorithms evaluate all the possible fares simultaneously instead of employing heuristic shortcuts designed to use as little computing power as possible. — Evan Ratliff, WIRED, September 2000 Because "tradition" has served as a powerful heuristic term, we are always in danger of reifying it … — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Reading Black, Reading Feminist, 1990 Its heuristic principle would be St. Augustine's axiom that the Old Testament is revealed in the New and the New concealed in the Old … — V. B. Leitch, American Literary Criticism from the Thirties to the Eighties, 1988 Noun "Cult" is best understood not as a descriptor, but as a command, like a law officer's "Halt!" Its purpose is to stop and contain. A more useful heuristic would be to identify precisely the most disturbing practices, beliefs, or incidents in the world of a "cult" … — Robert A. Orsi, Commonweal, 6 Oct. 2000 Search engines … use heuristics to determine the way in which to order—and thereby prioritize—pages. — Soumen Chakrabarti et al., Scientific American, June 1999
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective One of the most prevalent of these biases is the availability heuristic. Elizabeth Tricomi, The Conversation, 19 Apr. 2022 In this study, researchers ran heuristic queries on input gradients. Aparna Dhinakaran, Forbes, 10 Sep. 2021 Arik Gihon, the chief architect of Alder Lake, told attendees that Alder Lake will be able to clock the memory speed up or down, saving power, in response to real-time heuristic analysis of the work being performed. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, 19 Aug. 2021 The four modes are not a strict system of classification, but more of a heuristic tool. Jennifer Ouellette, Wired, 23 July 2021 For now, this idea of visualizing quantum objects by means of bubbles or elastic balloons is just a fun heuristic exercise. Quanta Magazine, 16 Feb. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Green and Daniels write that this kind of intuitive correction is a heuristic honed over years of practice and constant feedback. Keith Law, Wired, 1 May 2020 Research by behavioral economists like Richard Thaler, the Nobel laureate, found that many people have used simple rules, or heuristics, to guide their behavior in benign ways. Jeff Sommer, New York Times, 24 Apr. 2020 Performing well on the NBME’s exams often relies heavily on heuristics. Vishal Khetpal, STAT, 20 Mar. 2020 That year, Edward Farhi, then at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, proposed another heuristic, or best-guess, approach called the quantum approximation optimization algorithm (QAOA). Michael Brooks, Scientific American, 3 Oct. 2019 Intuitive decisions can be grounded in heuristics: simple rules of thumb. Laura Kutsch, Scientific American, 15 Aug. 2019 This is a terrible heuristic if you’re being chased by a bear. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, 9 Aug. 2019 As a result, there is good experimental evidence to support the Cohen-Lenstra heuristics. Kevin Hartnett, Quanta Magazine, 2 Mar. 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'heuristic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of heuristic


1821, in the meaning defined above


1860, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for heuristic

Adjective and Noun

German heuristisch, from New Latin heuristicus, from Greek heuriskein to discover; akin to Old Irish fo-fúair he found

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Time Traveler for heuristic

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The first known use of heuristic was in 1821

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Last Updated

25 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Heuristic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heuristic. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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Nglish: Translation of heuristic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of heuristic for Arabic Speakers


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