Synonym Chooser

How does the noun theory differ from other similar words?

The words hypothesis and law are common synonyms of theory. While all three words mean "a formula derived by inference from scientific data that explains a principle operating in nature," theory implies a greater range of evidence and greater likelihood of truth.

the theory of evolution

When would hypothesis be a good substitute for theory?

Although the words hypothesis and theory have much in common, hypothesis implies insufficient evidence to provide more than a tentative explanation.

a hypothesis explaining the extinction of the dinosaurs

When might law be a better fit than theory?

The meanings of law and theory largely overlap; however, law implies a statement of order and relation in nature that has been found to be invariable under the same conditions.

the law of gravitation

Thesaurus Entries Near theory

Cite this Entry

“Theory.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on theory

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!