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Irregular formation from Ancient Greek εὑρίσκω (heurískō, I find, discover) (compare the proper Greek term εὑρετικός (heuretikós)).


  • IPA(key): /hjuˈɹɪstɪk/, /hjʊˈɹɪstɪk/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: heu‧ris‧tic
  • Rhymes: -ɪstɪk


heuristic (comparative more heuristic, superlative most heuristic)

  1. (of an approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery) That employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect; not following or derived from any theory. [from 1821]
    • 2015, Ippoliti, Emiliano; Thomas Nickles, Heuristic Reasoning[1]:
      "The heuristic appraisal is the 'identification and evaluation of hints and clues that can provide direction to inquiry in the sometimes large gap between the extremes of complete knowledge and complete ignorance'”.
  2. (computing, of a method or algorithm) That solves a problem more quickly but is not certain to arrive at an optimal solution.
    • 2002, Te Chiang Hu, Man-tak Shing, Combinatorial Algorithms[2]:
      If a heuristic algorithm works for most of the input data or its maximum percentage error is tolerable, we may prefer the heuristic algorithm to an optimum algorithm that requires a long time.
  3. (of an argument) That reasons from the value of a method or principle that has been shown by experimental investigation to be a useful aid in learning, discovery and problem-solving.

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heuristic (plural heuristics)

  1. A heuristic method. [from 1860]
  2. The art of applying heuristic methods.
  3. (computing) A technique designed for solving a problem when classic methods are too slow or fail to find any exact solution.


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