I'm looking for a word synonymous with analytically, but specifically referring to laboratory instrument analysis, as opposed to analysis from computational models. I know this is a fuzzy line, but does any such word exist? Some people use the word analytically with laboratory connotations, but I'm looking to be as unequivocal as possible.

I've thought about using the phrase in-vitro analysis, but is there anything better?

  • 4
    The wording of your statement threw me for a loop: Word Meaning Probed Using Laboratory Instruments. Sounds like a newspaper headline, and, as such, is pretty odd. Frankly, What are you analyzing? The object of your analysis, I would think, is important contextually. Not everything can be analyzed in-vitro. I think that would be limited to biological organisms...
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 18:03
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    If you "probed" something using laboratory instruments, most likely you measured it (then perhaps analysed the measurements). Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 19:03
  • perhaps 'observations'
    – Tom22
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 20:31
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    Are you looking for empirically?
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 23:10
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    Analysis is right, but it needs an adjective, e.g., chemical, physical, biological, forensic, or more specific, e.g., GC-MS Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 1:48

2 Answers 2


I stand by the comment I made on January 19, which I will now turn into an answer. "Analysis is right, but it needs an adjective, e.g., chemical, physical, biological, forensic, or more specific, e.g., GC-MS." There is no single word that you could use to distinguish between experimental -- in the traditional sense of the word -- and computational analysis. You yourself use more than one word when you say you've thought of using "in-vitro analysis". Give it up.


A range of opposing concepts

Although the question shows effort in explanation and an attempt at clarity, there is a conflict between the title, the formulation of the problem, and one possibility proposed. This suggests to me that it is formulated from the standpoint of one academic speciality — computing science — without a full understanding of the subtleties of another — biology. Indeed, I am not even sure the question relates to biology (or medicine), other than from the use of the term in vitro. I shall use this answer to address the terminology (or lack of it) for what is in fact a broader range of opposing concepts implied by the question.

Computer modelling v. Analysis of an actual system

I assume, rightly or wrongly, that the main concern in this question is with computer simulations or modelling, and measurements or experiments in actual systems. Although in vitro suggests biology, it is logical to start with a more general situation that would also encompass climatology, geology, astronomy and the like. For this I disregard the instruments mentioned in the title (I’ll deal with that separatelY) as analysis of actual systems can involve natural history where the recording of the number of birds of a particular type and the colour and number of their eggs requires no instruments whatever.

The adverbial phrase to describe experiments of this type performed on the computer is in silico:

an expression used to mean “performed on computer or via computer simulation.”

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell from internet searches, there is no antonym to this.

I therefore suggest that ‘ex silico’ be used.

An internet search shows that various sporadic uses of this expression in an inconsistent manner, but it seems ripe for the picking. Although it is not similar to ex vivo, it is quite logical.

Empirical (suggested by @Jim), as opposed to theoretical, is a word that already exists:

Based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.

However the opposition to computer modelling is less obvious. (As with ex silico, it does not imply the use of instruments.)

Computer modelling v. Analysis of a biological system

I have no suggestion for this. You cannot use in vitro, as it means in glass (i.e.in the test tube) as opposed to in vivo (in the living [organism]). (And in both these instruments can be used to make measurement, as anyone who has been the subject of electrocardiography can attest. So it doesn’t address that problem either.)

I have encountered bioinformaticians from a computing science background who refer to ‘dry lab’, as opposed to ‘wet lab’ experiments. This is generally met with puzzled looks from biological scientists, who regard a lab as a lab, and do not usually carry umbrellas. This may be of use in certain circumstances.

Computer modelling v. Analysis with laboratory instruments

As explained above, in vitro cannot be used. You might say ‘in vitro and in vivo’, I suppose, if you restrict yourself to biology. (There is also in natura where instruments are presumably excluded.)

I would probably just say experimental analysis or laboratory analysis as opposed to computer simulation or computer analysis. This is not perfect, because one probably regards one's computer work as an experiment (and regards one's office as a dry lab) — hence the advantage of ‘simulation’.

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