sci·​en·​tist | \ ˈsī-ən-tist How to pronounce scientist (audio) \

Definition of scientist

1 : a person learned in science and especially natural science : a scientific investigator
2 capitalized : christian scientist

Examples of scientist in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In the short term, Julie Kalansky, a climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said the storm will help alleviate the dry landscape as well as reduce the potential for fires to spread and ignite. Rachel Ramirez, CNN, 23 Oct. 2021 The climate scientist said discussions remained unresolved and that his colleagues’ unwillingness to include guest lecturers who have divergent political beliefs goes against the school’s mission. NBC News, 19 Oct. 2021 But Bill Patzert, a retired climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who has studied the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) for four decades, says the deck is probably stacked for another dry year. Los Angeles Times, 16 Oct. 2021 The German climate scientist also developed ways to identify specific signals which showed human impact on the changing climate. Siladitya Ray, Forbes, 5 Oct. 2021 According to James Screen, a climate scientist at the University of Exeter, some experts believe that a northward shift could result in a stronger, less wavy jet stream. Chelsea Harvey, Scientific American, 21 Sep. 2021 Finance is critical to climate negotiations this fall in Scotland, so the report examined commitments by rich nations to help pay for clean energy for poor nations, said Hare, a climate scientist. Seth Borenstein, ajc, 15 Sep. 2021 Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS and one of the report’s authors, said the group chose to focus on outdoor workers because of their particular vulnerability. Zayna Syed, The Arizona Republic, 15 Sep. 2021 The climate scientist Ken Caldeira recently tweeted a joke meant to charm carbon-tax advocates. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 14 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'scientist.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of scientist

1834, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for scientist

scient- (in Latin scientia "knowledge, science" or in scientific) + -ist entry 1

Note: The word scientist was apparently first introduced by the English polymath William Whewell (1794-1866). The coinage is referred to in an unsigned book review authored by Whewell in The Quarterly Review, vol. 51 (March & June, 1834), pp. 58-59: "The tendency of the sciences has long been an increasing proclivity to separation and dismemberment …The mathematician turns away from the chemist; the chemist from the naturalist; the mathematician, left to himself, divides himself into a pure mathematician and a mixed mathematician, who soon part company; the chemist is perhaps a chemist of electro-chemistry; if so, he leaves common chemical analysis to others; between the mathematician and the chemist is to be interpolated a 'physicien' (we have no English name for him), who studies heat, moisture, and the like. And thus science, even mere physical science, loses all traces of unity. A curious illustration of this result may be observed in the want of any name by which we can designate the students of the knowledge of the material world collectively. We are informed that this difficulty was felt very oppresively by the members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, in their meetings at York, Oxford, and Cambridge, in the last three summers. There was no general term by which these gentlemen could describe themselves with reference to their pursuits. Philosophers was felt to be too wide and too lofty a term, and was very properly forbidden them by Mr. [Samuel Taylor] Coleridge, both in his capacity of philologer [philologist] and metaphysician; savans was rather assuming, besides being French instead of English; some ingenious gentleman [apparently William Whewell himself] proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might form scientist, and added that there could be no scruple in making free with this termination when we have such words as sciolist, economist and atheist—but this was not generally palatable …." As Whewell indicates, his coinage was not a success, though, undeterred, he reintroduced it in 1840, and the word seems to have been produced independently of Whewell in the following two decades in both Britain and the United States (where it was more readily accepted). For documentation and details, see Sydney Ross, "Scientist: the story of a word," Annals of Science, vol. 18, no. 2 (June, 1962), pp. 65-85.

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The first known use of scientist was in 1834

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Last Updated

25 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Scientist.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for scientist



English Language Learners Definition of scientist

: a person who is trained in a science and whose job involves doing scientific research or solving scientific problems


sci·​en·​tist | \ ˈsī-ən-təst How to pronounce scientist (audio) \

Kids Definition of scientist

: a person who studies, specializes in, or investigates a field of science and does scientific work


sci·​en·​tist | \ ˈsī-ənt-əst How to pronounce scientist (audio) \

Medical Definition of scientist

: a person learned in science and especially natural science : a scientific investigator

More from Merriam-Webster on scientist

Nglish: Translation of scientist for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of scientist for Arabic Speakers


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