[hyoo-ris-tik or, often, yoo-]


serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of furthering investigation.
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.
of, relating to, or based on experimentation, evaluation, or trial-and-error methods.
Computers, Mathematics. pertaining to a trial-and-error method of problem solving used when an algorithmic approach is impractical.


a heuristic method of argument.
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. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for heuristics



(functioning as singular) maths logic a method or set of rules for solving problems other than by algorithmSee also algorithm (def. 1), artificial intelligence



helping to learn; guiding in discovery or investigation
(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


(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 heuristics

"study of heuristic methods," 1897, from heueristic (n.); also see -ics.



"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