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[em-pir-i-kuh l] /ɛmˈpɪr ɪ kəl/
derived from or guided by experience or experiment.
depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, especially as in medicine.
provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.
Origin of empirical
First recorded in 1560-70; empiric + -al1
Related forms
empirically, adverb
empiricalness, noun
antiempirical, adjective
antiempirically, adverb
nonempirical, adjective
nonempirically, adverb
overempirical, adjective
overempirically, adverb
semiempirical, adjective
semiempirically, adverb
unempirical, adjective
unempirically, adverb
1, 2. practical, firsthand, pragmatic.
1, 2. secondhand, theoretical. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for empirical
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They would have shrunk from the empirical freedom that results from a little beer.

    The Longest Journey E. M. Forster
  • That is a question of faith and empirical evidence with which we are not here concerned.

    The Sense of Beauty George Santayana
  • There is after all some justification for Guetta's criticism of empirical instruction.

    The Psychology of Singing

    David C. Taylor
  • The method from that time on is about of the type described as empirical.

    The Psychology of Singing

    David C. Taylor
  • empirical teaching based on the singer's sensations is of no avail.

    The Psychology of Singing

    David C. Taylor
British Dictionary definitions for empirical


derived from or relating to experiment and observation rather than theory
(of medical treatment) based on practical experience rather than scientific proof
  1. (of knowledge) derived from experience rather than by logic from first principles Compare a priori, a posteriori
  2. (of a proposition) subject, at least theoretically, to verification Compare analytic (sense 4), synthetic (sense 4)
of or relating to medical quackery
(statistics) the posterior probability of an event derived on the basis of its observed frequency in a sample Compare mathematical probability See also posterior probability
Derived Forms
empirically, adverb
empiricalness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for empirical

1560s, from empiric + -al (1).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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empirical in Medicine

empirical em·pir·i·cal (ěm-pēr'ĭ-kəl)

  1. Relying on or derived from observation or experiment.

  2. Verifiable or provable by means of observation or experiment.

  3. Of or being a philosophy of medicine emphasizing practical experience and observation over scientific theory.

em·pir'i·cal·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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empirical in Science
Relying on or derived from observation or experiment.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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