- A doctrine, or scheme of things, which terminates in speculation or contemplation, without a view to practice; hypothesis; speculation.
- An exposition of the general or abstract principles of any science; as, the theory of music.
- The science, as distinguished from the art; as, the theory and practice of medicine.
- The philosophical explanation of phenomena, either physical or moral; as, Lavoisier's theory of combustion; Adam Smith's theory of moral sentiments.
synonyms: Hypothesis, speculation.
Note: ☞ “This word is employed by English writers in a very loose and improper sense. It is with them usually convertible into hypothesis, and hypothesis is commonly used as another term for conjecture. The terms theory and theoretical are properly used in opposition to the terms practice and practical. In this sense, they were exclusively employed by the ancients; and in this sense, they are almost exclusively employed by the Continental philosophers.” Sir W. Hamilton.
Usage: Theory Hypothesis. A theory is a scheme of the relations subsisting between the parts of a systematic whole; an hypothesis is a tentative conjecture respecting a cause of phenomena.
Etymology: F. théorie, L. theoria, Gr. � a beholding, spectacle, contemplation, speculation, fr. � a spectator, � to see, view. See Theater