Meaning of counterfactual in English:


Pronunciation /ˌkaʊntəˈfaktʃʊəl/

See synonyms for counterfactual on


  • Relating to or expressing what has not happened or is not the case.

    ‘But to generate knowledge independently of experience, a priori warrants must produce warranted true belief in counterfactual situations where experiences are different.’
    • ‘I also raise some questions concerning conceptual priority, and the issue of whether counterfactual analyses of causation are compatible with the view that causal relations are purely objective.’
    • ‘Concerning ordinary physical objects, it is easy to imagine counterfactual cases where questions of identity become problematic.’
    • ‘My conclusion, then, has to do with other situations of enquiry than this one, often spoken of as counterfactual situations.’
    • ‘This is to provide a sort of counterfactual analysis of the continued existence of unperceived objects.’


  • A counterfactual conditional statement (e.g. If kangaroos had no tails, they would topple over).

    ‘Such a semantics states truth conditions for counterfactuals in terms of relations among possible worlds.’
    • ‘Recent attempts to analyze causation in terms of probabilistic counterfactuals have become quite intricate; see for example Noordhof.’
    • ‘The moral to be drawn is that causation may imply that certain counterfactuals hold, but the holding of counterfactuals is not enough to show causation.’
    • ‘So counterfactuals are not cases of straightforward logical implication.’
    • ‘But it may strike us as being far from natural to say that all of these counterfactuals are true.’