Word Traveler: Science terms

This feature is for all word lovers as well as those studying for the SAT and seeking to learn new vocabulary.

The word science is from Latin scientia "knowledge" (from scire "know") and first meant "the state or fact of knowing." It was first used in English around 1340 and came to be distinguished from art in the late 1600s. Science then denoted a department of practical work which depended on the knowledge and conscious application of principles - while art was understood to require knowledge of traditional rules and skill acquired by habit. But science was not really used in the sense of a branch of study concerned with observable facts until 1725.

Natural sciences such as biology, botany, zoology, chemistry, and physics are distinguished from mathematics, logic, mental and moral sciences, called pure sciences. Natural sciences deal with the objects, phenomena, or laws of nature and the physical world - and thereby is the overarching term including life sciences and physical sciences. Pure science involves the systematic observation of natural phenomena solely for the discovery of unknown laws relating to facts.

Physical sciences cover things like geology, meteorology, etc., and are concerned with inanimate natural objects and energy apart from vitality, which differentiates them from life sciences (also called bioscience). Life sciences such as biology, zoology, medicine, anthropology, sociology, or ecology deal with living organisms and their organization, life processes, and relationships to each other and their environment. The earth sciences are sometimes considered a part of the physical sciences, with such branches as geology, paleontology, oceanography, and meteorology.

Social sciences (also called human sciences, moral sciences) include anthropology, archaeology, psychology, and sociology - and deal with humans in their social relations.

Then there are engineering sciences concerned with the practical application of the results of scientific activity. There are many fields of engineering, computer science, plus agronomy, horticulture, and animal husbandry - as well as the many aspects of medicine.

A pure science is one depending on deductions from demonstrated truths, such as math or logic, considered essentially theoretical and without regard to practical applications - in contrast to applied science (applying scientific knowledge to practical problems). Exact sciences are physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc. - ones whose laws are capable of accurate quantitative expression.

And to our discussion of the sciences, we can add domestic science or household science, fancy names for the study or knowledge of household management - including cooking, laundry, needlework. Some might call these pseudoscience.

Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
About Term Privacy Careers Apps Feedback