AskDefine | Define approximate

Dictionary Definition

approximate adj
1 not quite exact or correct; "the approximate time was 10 o'clock"; "a rough guess"; "a ballpark estimate" [syn: approximative, rough]
2 very close in resemblance; "sketched in an approximate likeness"; "a near likeness" [syn: near]
3 located close together; "with heads close together"; "approximate leaves grow together but are not united" [syn: close together(p)]


1 be close or similar; "Her results approximate my own" [syn: come close]
2 judge tentatively or form an estimate of (quantities or time); "I estimate this chicken to weigh three pounds" [syn: estimate, gauge, guess, judge]

User Contributed Dictionary



From approximatus, past participle of approximare; ad + proximare. See proximate.




  1. Approaching; proximate; nearly resembling.
  2. Near correctness; nearly exact; not perfectly accurate.
    Approximate results or values.


To help carry out its mission, NASA's Genesis spacecraft has on board an ion monitor to record the speed, density, temperature and approximate composition of the solar wind ions.


Approaching; proximate; nearly resembling
Near correctness; nearly exact; not perfectly accurate;
  • Czech: přibližný
  • Finnish: arvioida, likiarvoinen
  • French: approximatif
  • German: annähernd, ungefähr, zirka, circa
  • Russian: приблизительный, приближенный, примерный


  1. To carry or advance near; to cause to approach.
    To approximate the inequality of riches to the level of nature. --Burke.
  2. To come near to; to approach.
    The telescope approximates perfection. --J. Morse.


When you follow two deparate chains of thought, Watson, you will find some point of intersection which should approximate to the truth.— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax


to carry or advance near; to cause to approach
  • Finnish: lähentää
  • French: approximer
  • German: annähern
to come near to; to approach
to estimate
  • Finnish: arvioida, approksimoida, estimoida

Extensive Definition

An approximation (represented by the symbol ≈) is an inexact representation of something that is still close enough to be useful. Although approximation is most often applied to numbers, it is also frequently applied to such things as mathematical functions, shapes, and physical laws.
Approximations may be used because incomplete information prevents use of exact representations. Many problems in physics are either too complex to solve analytically, or impossible to solve. Thus, even when the exact representation is known, an approximation may yield a sufficiently accurate solution while reducing the complexity of the problem significantly.
For instance, physicists often approximate the shape of the Earth as a sphere even though more accurate representations are possible, because many physical behaviours—e.g. gravity—are much easier to calculate for a sphere than for less regular shapes.
The problem consisting of two or more planets orbiting around a sun has no exact solution. Often, ignoring the gravitational effects of the planets gravitational pull on each other and assuming that the sun does not move achieve a good approximation. The use of perturbations to correct for the errors can yield more accurate solutions. Simulations of the motions of the planets and the star also yields more accurate solutions.
The type of approximation used depends on the available information, the degree of accuracy required, the sensitivity of the problem to this data, and the savings (usually in time and effort) that can be achieved by approximation.


The scientific method is carried out with a constant interaction between scientific laws (theory) and empirical measurements, which are constantly compared to one another.
The approximation also refers to using a simpler process. This model is used to make predictions easier. The most common versions of philosophy of science accept that empirical measurements are always approximations—they do not perfectly represent what is being measured. The history of science indicates that the scientific laws commonly felt to be true at any time in history are only approximations to some deeper set of laws. For example, attempting to resolve a model using outdated physical laws alone incorporates an inherent source of error, which should be corrected by approximating the quantum effects not present in these laws.
Each time a newer set of laws is proposed, it is required that in the limiting situations in which the older set of laws were tested against experiments, the newer laws are nearly identical to the older laws, to within the measurement uncertainties of the older measurements. This is the correspondence principle.


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≈ (formal)
~ (informal) symbols representing approximation. Approximation usually occurs when an exact form or an exact numerical number is unknown. However some known form may exist and may be able to represent the real form so that no significant deviation can be found. Numerical approximations sometimes result from using a small number of significant digits. Approximation theory is a branch of mathematics, a quantitative part of functional analysis. Diophantine approximation deals with approximation to real numbers by rational numbers. The symbol "≈" means "approximately equal to"; tilde (~) and the Libra sign (* Congruence


approximate in Breton: Tostadur
approximate in Czech: Aproximace
approximate in Danish: Approksimation
approximate in German: Approximation
approximate in Esperanto: Proksimuma kalkulado
approximate in French: Approximation
approximate in Icelandic: Námundun
approximate in Italian: Approssimazione
approximate in Dutch: Benadering
approximate in Japanese: 近似
approximate in Polish: Aproksymacja
approximate in Portuguese: Aproximação
approximate in Russian: Аппроксимация
approximate in Simple English: Approximation
approximate in Finnish: Approksimaatio
approximate in Swedish: Approximation
approximate in Ukrainian: Апроксимація

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

accost, advance, advancing, ape, appear like, approach, approaching, appropinquate, approximating, approximative, arm-in-arm, assimilate, attracted to, be around, be like, be near, be redolent of, bear down on, bear down upon, bear resemblance, bear up, begin to, bring near, bring to mind, burning, call, call to mind, call up, cheek-by-jowl, close, close in, close with, come, come close, come closer, come forward, come near, come on, come up, coming, comparable, compare with, confront, connaturalize, copy, correspond, counterfeit, draw near, draw nigh, drawn to, encounter, estimated, evoke, favor, follow, forthcoming, gain upon, get warm, hand-in-hand, homologous, hot, imitate, imminent, imprecise, inaccurate, incorrect, inexact, intimate, judge, lax, like, look like, loose, match, mimic, mirror, much at one, much the same, narrow the gap, near, near the mark, nearing, nearish, nearly reproduce, nearly the same, negligent, nigh, nighish, not tell apart, oncoming, out of line, out of plumb, out of square, out of true, parallel, partake of, place, propinque, proximal, proximate, put, quasi, reckon, relatable, relative, remind one of, resemble, rough, rude, same but different, savor of, seem like, side-by-side, sidle up to, similar, similarize, simulate, smack of, sound like, stack up with, step up, suggest, take after, to come, unfactual, unprecise, unrigorous, upcoming, verge on, vicinal, warm
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