[ em-pir-uh-siz-uh m ]
/ ɛmˈpɪr əˌsɪz əm /


empirical method or practice.
Philosophy. the doctrine that all knowledge is derived from sense experience.Compare rationalism(def 2).
undue reliance upon experience, as in medicine; quackery.
an empirical conclusion.

Nearby words

  1. empiric,
  2. empiric risk,
  3. empirical,
  4. empirical formula,
  5. empirically,
  6. empiricist,
  7. empirin,
  8. empirism,
  9. empiristic,
  10. emplace

Origin of empiricism

First recorded in 1650–60; empiric + -ism

Related forms
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for empiricism

British Dictionary definitions for empiricism


/ (ɛmˈpɪrɪˌsɪzəm) /


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
the use of empirical methods
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

Medicine definitions for empiricism


[ ĕm-pîrĭ-sĭz′əm ]


Employment of empirical methods, as in science.
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.