[em-pir-uh-siz-uh m]
See more synonyms for empiricism on Thesaurus.com
  1. empirical method or practice.
  2. Philosophy. the doctrine that all knowledge is derived from sense experience.Compare rationalism(def 2).
  3. undue reliance upon experience, as in medicine; quackery.
  4. an empirical conclusion.

Origin of empiricism

First recorded in 1650–60; empiric + -ism
Related formsem·pir·i·cist, noun, adjectivean·ti·em·pir·i·cism, nounan·ti·em·pir·i·cist, noun, adjectivenon·em·pir·i·cism, nounpro·em·pir·i·cism, noun, adjectivepro·em·pir·i·cist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for empiricism

experimentation, experientialism

Examples from the Web for empiricism

Contemporary Examples of empiricism

  • Roosevelt, the Emperor of Empiricism, never learned the lesson Keynes tried to teach.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Stop Trying to Balance Budgets!

    Harold Evans

    June 28, 2010

  • If President-elect Obama truly does forecast a new Age of Empiricism, then Larry is the best choice for Treasury.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Larry Summers for Treasury

    Peter Hopkins

    November 13, 2008

Historical Examples of empiricism

British Dictionary definitions for empiricism


  1. philosophy the doctrine that all knowledge of matters of fact derives from experience and that the mind is not furnished with a set of concepts in advance of experienceCompare intuitionism, rationalism
  2. the use of empirical methods
  3. medical quackery; charlatanism
Derived Formsempiricist, noun, adjective
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

Word Origin and History for empiricism

1650s, in the medical sense, from empiric + -ism. General sense is from 1796.

Were I obliged to give a short name to the attitude in question, I should call it that of radical empiricism, in spite of the fact that such brief nicknames are nowhere more misleading than in philosophy. I say 'empiricism' because it is contented to regard its most assured conclusions concerning matters of fact as hypotheses liable to modification in the course of future experience; and I say 'radical,' because it treats the doctrine of monism itself as an hypothesis, and, unlike so much of the half way empiricism that is current under the name of positivism or agnosticism or scientific naturalism, it does not dogmatically affirm monism as something with which all experience has got to square. The difference between monism and pluralism is perhaps the most pregnant of all the differences in philosophy. [William James, preface to "The Sentiment of Rationality" in "The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy," 1897]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

empiricism in Medicine


  1. Employment of empirical methods, as in science.
  2. The practice of medicine that disregards scientific theory and relies solely on practical experience.
Related formsem•piri•cist n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.