• empirical •
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Supported by experimentation and scientific observation; provable by laboratory methods. 2. Supported by practical experience rather than theory or study.
Notes: This word is the adjective to the noun empiric, which originally referred to a practitioner who works from experience rather than training, but later moved on to mean "quack, imposter, charlatan". It is still used mostly to refer to physicians but applies to anyone involved in the sciences. Empiric may also be used as an adjectival synonym of empirical. We have to be careful with our use of today's word since it is an oxymoron carrying with it two opposing meanings: (1) supported by scientific research and (2) ignoring scientific research. The first meaning is by far the more widely used today.
In Play: This concept behind today's Good Word is at the very foundation of modern science: "The empirical evidence of global warming is now incontrovertible." Empirical proof of anything is the best that we have, so let's not misuse it as it is in this case: "But dad, the necessity for work-free weekends is supported by empirical research at leading universities!"
Word History: Today's Good Word came to us directly from Latin empiricus but it originated as Greek empeirikos "experienced", the adjective of the noun empeiria "experience". Empeiria is composed of en- "in" + peira "trial, experiment" + a noun suffix. The root of peira came from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to try, risk", which also gave us English fear. It is also at the base of Latin periculum "trial, danger", which Old French drastically reduced to peril for us. Is the word empire related to today's word? No, empire came from the unrelated Latin verb imperare "to command". (It is an empirical fact that Jackie Strauss took no risk whatever in suggesting today's really Good Word.)
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