[hyoo-ris-tik or, often, yoo-]
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  1. serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of furthering investigation.
  2. encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error: a heuristic teaching method.
  3. of, relating to, or based on experimentation, evaluation, or trial-and-error methods.
  4. Computers, Mathematics. pertaining to a trial-and-error method of problem solving used when an algorithmic approach is impractical.
  1. a heuristic method of argument.
  2. the study of heuristic procedure.

Origin of heuristic

1815–25; < New Latin heuristicus, equivalent to Greek heur(ískein) to find out, discover + Latin -isticus -istic
Related formsheu·ris·ti·cal·ly, adverbnon·heu·ris·tic, adjectiveun·heu·ris·tic, adjectiveun·heu·ris·ti·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for heuristic


  1. helping to learn; guiding in discovery or investigation
  2. (of a method of teaching) allowing pupils to learn things for themselves
    1. maths science philosophyusing or obtained by exploration of possibilities rather than by following set rules
    2. computingdenoting a rule of thumb for solving a problem without the exhaustive application of an algorithma heuristic solution
  1. (plural) the science of heuristic procedure
Derived Formsheuristically, adverb

Word Origin for heuristic

C19: from New Latin heuristicus, from Greek heuriskein to discover
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 heuristic

"serving to discover or find out," 1821, irregular formation from Greek heuretikos "inventive," related to heuriskein "to find" (from PIE *were- "to find;" cf. Old Irish fuar "I have found") + -istic. As a noun, from 1860.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper