Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 31, 2023


Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory

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How many times have you said, Theoretically speaking or hypothetically speaking, while explaining something? Don’t you have theories of your own?

In school, we are taught to hypothesise. We learn many theories in school as well, especially in the field of science.

The theory of relativity, the Newton theories.

At first glance, it seems that theories are truths. They seem to abide by a set of rules. Theories seem rigid and practical, something one can rely on. On the other hand, a hypothesis is something more imaginative, a mental construct of a higher order that may be changed according to its maker's desires.

The hypothesis has no applicability in real life and no effect on any matter; it seems to be as insignificant as made-up stories told to children.

Can a theory exist without a hypothesis? Are they connected?

What do we know about these two concepts—are they really true?

Do they go in parallel with each other, or are they completely different from each other?

Looking into the Oxford definitions of theory and hypothesis, we have the following:

Theory -> noun ->   /ˈθɪəri/

[countable, uncountable] a formal set of ideas that is intended to explain why something happens or exists

[uncountable] the principles on which a particular subject is based

[countable] an opinion or idea that somebody believes is true but that is not proved

Hypothesis -> noun ->   /haɪˈpɒθəsɪs/

[countable] an idea or explanation of something that is based on a few known facts but that has not yet been proven to be true or correct.

In most everyday uses, theory and hypothesis convey the same meaning. For example:

Her opinion is just a theory, of course. She’s just guessing.

Her opinion is just a hypothesis, of course. She’s just guessing.

Hypothesis vs Theory

Although they may seem to be the same at first glance, they have their own set of differences.

While a hypothesis is a guess or assumption, the theory is an educated approach, an assumption, but with a logical basis to it. Theories have some type of testing involved.

In a casual setting, we may use theory and hypothesis interchangeably, but in scientific and technical research, these two concepts have many differences.

In colloquial terms, anytime a person says “ I think that.. “ it is a hypothesis, and anytime someone says “ research had shown that…” it is a theory.

Here are a few definitions of hypothesis by important researchers.

• A tentative supposition or provisional guess “It is a tentative supposition or provisional guess which seems to explain the situation under observation.” – James E. Greighton

• According to John W. Best, “It is a shrewd guess or inference that is formulated and provisionally adopted to explain observed facts or conditions and to guide in further investigation.

• George, J. Mouly defines that “Hypothesis is an assumption or proposition whose testability is to be tested based on the computability of its implications with empirical evidence with previous knowledge.”

A Theory, on the other hand, is defined by researchers as follows:

A theory is "a statement of concepts and their inter-relationships that shows and/or why a phenomenon occurs.”

The theory is more solution-oriented, while a hypothesis is more problem-oriented.

A theory may be used to find answers, whereas a hypothesis is used to formulate new questions and problems and challenge existing knowledge.

Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonHypothesisTheory
MeaningA hypothesis is defined as “ an idea or explanation of something that is based on a few known facts, but that has not yet been proved to be true or correct”.A theory is defined as “ A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena. ”.
DirectionIt is future oriented.It is important because it is used to solve real problems.
Practical applicationIt has no practical viability.Theories are used in practice.
NatureIt is concept oriented.It is solution oriented.
EvidenceTheories have a base of evidence to support their existence.Theories have a base of evidence to support its existence.
ExperimentationIt is yet to be experimented uponIt has gone through tests and experiments
ImportanceIt is important to formulate new and innovative ideas.It is importance in the sense that it is used to solve real problems.

What is a Hypothesis?

If you catch yourself saying, "I think it will rain because it is windy, that is a hypothesis."

In simple terms, the hypothesis is an assumption based on known or unknown facts without evidence.

It is an unproved statement that exists only as an idea. A hypothesis is very effective in many fields for exploring a variety of possibilities and finding new and innovative concepts.

A favourable hypothesis can lead to the discovery or invention of beneficial theories, that can be applied in day-to-day life.

A hypothesis is needed before the formulation of a theory. Therefore, the hypothesis precedes the theory.

In more formal definitions, “ A hypothesis is a tentative statement of the relationship between two or more variables. Hypotheses are always in declarative sentence form. They relate either generally or specifically variable and variables.”

A hypothesis may be formed through observation and curiosity about the relativity between various objects or association of events with each other.

It may also come as a random thought or idea without any base.

It may also be inspired by personal experiences, interests and knowledge in a field of study.

The various types of hypotheses are as follows:

Simple Hypothesis.

A hypothesis that assumes the relationship between only two variables that are related to each other is called a simple hypothesis. For example, the relationship between the amount of sugar consumed and the likelihood of gaining weight.

Complex hypothesis.

A complex hypothesis tests the relationship between more than 2 variables that may have effects on each other. For example, the relationship between irrigation required, rainfall and quantity of food grains grown in a season.

Directional hypothesis.

In a directional hypothesis, the researcher uses common knowledge to guess the results of events. He assumes the results to follow a positive or negative direction. For example, if a person consumes a lot of sugar, they will develop diabetes for sure.

This is a hypothesis that follows a negative direction.

Non-directional hypothesis.

A non-directional hypothesis has no directional context involved i.e it cannot be associated with a particular logical base. For example, stating that people who drink water a lot have a different lifestyle than people who do not drink enough water.

Null hypothesis.

A null hypothesis claims that there is no relationship between two variables.

What is Theory?

 Theory: A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena. American Heritage Dictionary

 Scientific theories are explanations of natural phenomena built up logically from testable observations and hypotheses. Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science - National Academy Press

A theory is a tested conclusion arrived at by a person through multiple sample testing and experiments. They are used to predict future occurrences and trends in a given environment. They use common logical and some form of mathematical considerations to reach conclusions.

There are various types of theories that have been derived


This is the most well-known type of theory because it is taught in schools and colleges across the globe. Many scientific theories are utilised in mathematics, physics and chemistry, and the textbooks are packed with theories explaining and reasoning different concepts and ideas to students.

They are taken at face level and are almost considered truths and facts.

They are, in fact, collections of common facts about a specific field of study.

These theories are made from continuous scientific observation and testing. The valuation of the outcomes obtained from tests has been converted into scientific theories for students to study.

Are they really unmovable? No, they are still subject to errors. It is only a matter of most cases, not ALL cases.

A theory can also be proved wrong or slightly different on further research.

Many scientific theories have been updated by scientists by gathering more evidence and identifying the anomalies in previous ones.

In science, a theory is not a guess, not a hunch it is a well-substantiated, well-supported, well-documented explanation for our observations. It ties together all the facts about something, providing an exposition that fits all the findings and can be used to make predictions. In science, theory is the ultimate goal, the explanation. It's as close to proven as anything in science can be.

Examples of scientific theories are :

  • Theory of evolution by natural selection
  • Plate tectonic theory
  • Cell theory
  • Atomic theory
  • Einstein's theories of special and general relativity
  • Electromagnetic theory
  • Germ theory
  • The big bang theory
  • Quantum theory


Philosophy is simply the study of life and the deeper meaning behind living.

Its objective is to answer questions like the need for morality, love, justice, passion and other emotions and societal concepts through exploring various ideas and concepts, which are then made into theories for the purpose of further study.

These theories help us understand our environment better and wrap our heads around the complexities of human life.

They do not provide a direct answer to the deeper meaning of life but help us to understand the meaning behind events and behaviours we witness in our lives.

Some philosophical theories are used in the study of psychology.

The most famous philosophical theories are stoicism, nihilism, and existentialism.


Politics is the social construct of government and the art and science of good governance. It consists of various sociological, statistical and psychological theories to support its need and importance in modern-day lives. The theories are derived from disciplines like economics and behaviour studies. These theories craft the governmental structure.

In order to manage a country, political leaders take inspiration from various theories to find the best-suited government structure for their respective country.

Some political theories are behaviourism, structuralism, post-structuralism, realism, institutionalism, and pluralism.

Main Differences Between Hypothesis and Theory (In Points)

  • A hypothesis is a statement that has not been tested yet, while a theory has already been tested.
  • A theory may or may not be a fact, but a hypothesis is certainly not a fact.
  • A hypothesis precedes a theory, while a theory is formulated after hypothesizing.
  • A hypothesis has no practical application, but a theory has some level of practicality.
  • A hypothesis is not a solution, but a theory can be a solution to a material problem.
  • A hypothesis is a statement, and a theory is a set of tested facts.
  • A hypothesis has no scientific significance, while a theory has scientific applications.
  • A hypothesis is future-oriented, but a theory is past/present-oriented as it has already been tested.
  • A hypothesis is conceptual in nature, while a theory leans more towards the factual side.
  • A hypothesis requires verification, while a theory has already been verified multiple times.


A hypothesis and theory are interconnected, although they are often used interchangeably in casual language. However, their true differences become apparent in research and scientific studies.

Nevertheless, they are linked, as a hypothesis serves as the foundation for a theory.

A hypothesis is an initial idea that undergoes continuous observation and testing to ultimately form a theory.

A hypothesis is essentially an imaginative "if" statement with minimal value, except for being an educated guess.

On the other hand, a theory holds significant value as it is derived from research and evidence.

Both hypothesis and theory are utilized in various fields such as science, mathematics, logistics, law, and economics.

The concepts of hypothesis and theories emphasize the necessity for original ideas and observational conclusions.


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"Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory." Diffzy.com, 2023. Tue. 03 Oct. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-hypothesis-and-theory-1282>.

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