1610s, "contemplative," with -al (1) + Late Latin theoreticus "of or pertaining to theory," from Greek theoretikos "contemplative, speculative, pertaining to theory" (by Aristotle contrasted to praktikos), from theoretos "that may be seen or considered," from theorein "to consider, look at" (see theory). Meaning "pertaining to theory, making deductions from theory not from fact" (opposed to practical) is from 1650s; earlier in this sense was theorical (c. 1500). Meaning "ideal, hypothetical" is from 1790s (implied in theoretically). Related: theoretician.
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