trial and error


experimentation or investigation in which various methods or means are tried and faulty ones eliminated in order to find the correct solution or to achieve the desired result or effect.

Origin of trial and error

First recorded in 1800–10
Related formstri·al-and-er·ror, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for trial and error

analysis, examination, experiment, probe, research, study, test, tentation

Examples from the Web for trial and error

Contemporary Examples of trial and error

Historical Examples of trial and error

  • Its use avoids the wastefulness of the trial-and-error method.

    Sound Military Decision

    U.s. Naval War College

  • How may we recognize this potential teacher without resorting to a clumsy, time-wasting, trial-and-error method?

    Vocational Guidance for Girls

    Marguerite Stockman Dickson

  • No trial-and-error, no baby hesitation with hand poised—just a sudden assured, controlled action.

    The Short Life

    Francis Donovan

British Dictionary definitions for trial and error

trial and error


a method of discovery, solving problems, etc, based on practical experiment and experience rather than on theoryhe learned to cook by trial and error
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

trial and error in Culture

trial and error

To “proceed by trial and error” is to experiment, rejecting what does not work and adopting what does.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with trial and error

trial and error

An attempt to accomplish something by trying various means until the correct one is found. for example, The only way to solve this problem is by trial and error. The error here alludes to the failed means or attempts, which are discarded until the right way is found. [c. 1800]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.