As a computer software engineer, I find that "heuristic" seems to be taken de facto, with no acknowledgement of any negative connotations, i.e. aspiring to more explicit, measurable, absolute alternative.

For example when given a set of objects, and the goal of deciding if they are alike or different, a heuristic approach compares one or more attributes of each item, which may not "prove" the decision, but support it.

"Deterministic" is probably the best choice, which might apply in the case one attribute is deemed to be distinct and definite.

  • 2
    It would be better to say which sense/s of 'heuristic' you mean, with dictionary support. Left , skew , wrong and overturn (arguably) are all antonyms of right , but hardly classmates, never mind near-synonyms. Sep 17, 2013 at 19:31
  • Given Computer Science as context: Deterministic algorithms solve the problem with exact decision at every step of the algorithm whereas non-deterministic algorithms solve problems via guessing although typical guesses are made more accurate through the use of heuristics. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorithm
    – twip
    Sep 17, 2013 at 20:14
  • Later, I was reminded that some computer languages use "duck typing" vs. explicit/strict types. Classic practical application of heuristic, and wildly popular too.
    – MarkHu
    Feb 5, 2015 at 0:29

7 Answers 7


Heuristic - proceeding to a solution by trial and error or by rules that are only loosely defined

Analytics - the systematic computational analysis of data or statistics

I'm not sure if these are in fact antonyms, but the fit seems appropriate in the context of computing.

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    Analysis of some sort would be required by any heuristic or it would just be random.
    – Jon Hanna
    Sep 17, 2013 at 20:10

I would say the opposite of "heuristic" would be "deductive". Heuristic reasoning is based on experience or probabilistic approaches that are likely to find adequate solutions. Deductive reasoning is based on provable inferences to reach a logically certain conclusion.


Heuristic analytics uses data to support an empirical conclusion. Deductive analytics uses data to direct a logical conclusion.


In the educational sense of heuristic then didactic in its sense of "instructing" would be a rough antonym.

In the computer science sense, classic is often used as an antonym of the use in an approach, provable as an antonym of the results (since with the classic approach we should be able to prove the algorithm, security, speed, memory use, etc. while with a heuristic approach we cannot).

In law, "case-by-case" or "case-by-case analysis" would be antonyms to the heuristic approach.


Heuristic is a woolly word. Antonyms for some common engineering applications are exhaustive (approach, algorithm, analysis, etc.), or analysis, etc., from first principles.


The opposite of Heuristic is Algorithmic.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage @Ashton. Nice to see you here. Answers are nearly always better when they contain a link or two to sources or authorities. Again, welcome.
    – user63230
    Feb 3, 2015 at 11:29
  • Disagree. An algorithm can be either heuristic or deterministic in its positive or negative assertions.
    – MarkHu
    Jan 7, 2020 at 19:13
  • @MarkHu: You are right that the opposite of a heuristic is not algorithmic, but that has nothing to do with determinism. An heuristic can also deterministic. According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorithm, an algorithm can actually be even non-deterministic.
    – Make42
    Nov 12, 2020 at 21:49

In mathematics, sometimes “Rigorous argument” is used as antonym of “ Heuristic argument”.

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