As an adjective, heuristic (pronounced hyu-RIS-tik and from the Greek "heuriskein" meaning "to discover") pertains to the process of gaining knowledge or some desired result by intelligent guesswork rather than by following some pre-established formula. (Heuristic can be contrasted with algorithm ic.) The term seems to have two usages:
1) Describing an approach to learning by trying without necessarily having an organized hypothesis or way of proving that the results proved or disproved the hypothesis. That is, "seat-of-the-pants" or "trial-by-error" learning.
2) Pertaining to the use of the general knowledge gained by experience, sometimes expressed as "using a rule-of-thumb." (However, heuristic knowledge can be applied to complex as well as simple everyday problems. Human chess players use a heuristic approach.)
As a noun, a heuristic is a specific rule-of-thumb or argument derived from experience. The application of heuristic knowledge to a problem is sometimes known as heuristics.
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