What is a Heuristic?

As you sit down to search the internet with Google now after 10 plus years you've adopted certain patterns and behaviors that make it easier for you to now find a specific topic. You discover the destination site by the judicious use of such a heuristic device as the 'ideal type' involving assumptions derived from extant empirical methods for solving problems in the absence of an algorithm for formal proof.

The implicit way to think of a heuristic is to use a quote from Encyclopedia Britannica: "An explicit analytical procedure for finding the solution is called an algorithm. Even if a model cannot be solved, and many are too complex for solution, it can be used to compare alternative solutions. It is sometimes possible to conduct a sequence of comparisons, each suggested by the previous one and each likely to contain a better alternative than was contained in any previous comparison. Such a solution-seeking procedure is called heuristic."

Or Merriam Webster: "1. involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery, or problem-solving by experimental and especially trial-and-error methods ; also : of or relating to exploratory problem-solving techniques that utilize self-educating techniques (as the evaluation of feedback) to improve performance."

From Greek heuriskein, to find, which is also the root for the word eureka.