Science Word Wednesday: Hypothesis

Sep 16, 2020
By Alan Curtis


Plural: hypotheses 

(singular noun. /hi-POTH-eh-sis/) (plural noun. /hi-POTH-eh-seas/) 

What does it mean? 

A statement that is one possible way of explaining an observation with varying amounts of evidence.  In science, hypotheses are important because they serve as a starting point for additional study.A hypothesis may be right or wrong but most importantly, a hypothesis changes over time as new information is available.

How do I use it in a sentence?

“My car will not start and my hypothesis is that the battery is dead.”

In the sentence above, it is important to note that the battery may be fine. All we know in this case is that the car won’t start. The car could be out of gas, have a bad electric connection, or a host of other issues. The hypothesis of a dead battery was made using past experience and the most likely cause. Once we look further, though, we might find evidence for something else (like corrosion on the distributor) that will change how we think about the problem – and that is OK – that is the goal of science: to find the truth.

When posed with a problem, we form hypotheses based on what we think might be going on. After we test those hypotheses, we generate evidence that will either support or rule out our hypothesis.


The term ‘hypothesis’ comes from the Greek meaning “putting or placing under.” 

Related terms

Theory – a set of hypotheses that explain an observed phenomenon (e.g. evolution)

Law – an unbreakable rule within science (e.g. gravity or the conservation of matter)


Many people believe a hypothesis is “an educated guess” but this isn’t exactly true. A hypothesis is far more than a guess. A real scientific hypothesis is formed based on at least some information, no matter how limited.

One might guess (or estimate) the number of candies in a jar to win a prize. You could size up the jar mentally and then make an educated guess of, say, 200 candies. If, however, you measured the jar, calculated the volume, you might hypothesize there 150 candies. Then, once looking more closely at the candy, realize it doesn’t pack efficiently based on the shape of its wrapper. With this new information, your hypothesis might change to 125 candies. Hypotheses are constantly refined as new data become available. That is the definition of the scientific method. 


Edited by Emma Goldberg and Anna Wheless