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empirical vs. theoretical

empirical vs. theoretical: What's the difference?

Empirical means based on observations or experience. Theoretical means based on theories and hypotheses. The two terms are often used in scientific practice to refer to data, methods, or probabilities.

[ em-pir-i-kuhl ]
  1. derived from or guided by direct experience or by experiment, rather than abstract principles or theory: Empirical evidence of changes in kelp consumption was gathered by measuring the bite marks in seaweed fronds.
  2. depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, and hence sometimes insufficiently authoritative, especially as in medicine: That is nothing but an empirical conclusion with no regard for the laws of thermodynamics.
  3. provable or verifiable by experience or experiment, as scientific laws: Theoretical physics is criticized for producing complex concepts that are mathematical, not empirical.
[ thee-uh-ret-i-kuhl ]
  1. of, relating to, or consisting in theory; not practical (distinguished from applied).
  2. existing only in theory; hypothetical.
  3. given to, forming, or dealing with theories; speculative.

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