from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Of or relating to a usually speculative formulation serving as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem.
  • adjective Of or constituting an educational method in which learning takes place through discoveries that result from investigations made by the student.
  • adjective Computers Relating to or using a problem-solving technique in which the most appropriate solution of several found by alternative methods is selected at successive stages of a program for use in the next step of the program.
  • noun A heuristic method or process.
  • noun The study and application of heuristic methods and processes.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Same as heuretic.
  • Serving to find or discover.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Serving to promote discovery or learning; -- used especially of thories or paradigms which stimulate new ideas for discovering facts in experimental sciences.
  • adjective Serving to stimulate people to learn and discover on their own, especially by encouraging experimental and trial-and-error methods for solving problems.
  • adjective Pertaining to or based on trial-and-error and experimental methods of learning and evaluation.
  • adjective (Computers) Based on the use of an efficient trial-and error method to search a space of possible solutions to a problem, or to find an acceptable approximate solution, when an exact algorithmic method is unavailable or too time-consuming.
  • noun A heuristic method; a specific heuristic procedure.
  • noun A theory or approach which serves to promote discovery or learning by encouraging experimentation.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Relating to general strategies or methods for solving problems.
  • adjective computing that solves a problem more quickly but is not certain to arrive at an optimal solution.
  • noun A heuristic method.
  • noun The art of applying heuristic methods.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective of or relating to or using a general formulation that serves to guide investigation
  • noun a commonsense rule (or set of rules) intended to increase the probability of solving some problem


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[From Greek heuriskein, to find.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Irregular formation from Ancient Greek εὑρίσκω (euriskō, "I find, discover").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word heuristic.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • The only real test is solving a problem by experience rather than theory.

    January 20, 2008

  • It's important to note that "experience" doesn't necessarily imply human experience. A computer can examine sample problems to come up with heuristics, it is a standard technique in artificial intelligence.

    January 21, 2008

  • this is a killer concept but quite an annoying word to look at and pronunce IMHO.

    September 17, 2008

  • Heuristic evaluations are also performed on websites. It's moved from a literature-based concept to a web-based concept. Jakob Nielsen at describes the Heuristic process at is pertains to websites here:

    March 30, 2009

  • strongly heuristic methodology

    September 30, 2010

  • This is exactly how I feel education should be structured.

    September 4, 2012