i. a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepting knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena · true in fact and theory
ii. a tentative insight into the natural world; a concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena · a scientific hypothesis that survives experimental testing becomes a scientific theory · he proposed a fresh theory of alkalis that later was accepted in chemical practices
syn: hypothesis, possibility
iii. a belief that can guide behavior · the architect has a theory that more is less · they killed him on the theory that dead men tell no tales
ORIGIN: 1592, “conception, mental scheme,” from Greek theoria “contemplation, speculation, a looking at things, things looked at.” That of “an explanation based on observation and reasoning,” first recorded in 1613.
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