Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory

Main Difference – Hypothesis vs Theory

Hypothesis and theory are two words that are often used in the field of science and research. Although these two words have somewhat similar meanings, there is a fundamental difference between hypothesis and theory. Hypothesis is a suggested explanation to explain some phenomenon, and is based on limited data. Theory, on the other hand, is a set of ideas that is intended to explain facts or events; they are based on concrete evidence. This is the main difference between hypothesis and theory.

This article explains,

1. What is a Hypothesis? – Definitions and Features

2. What is a Theory? – Definitions and Features

3. What is the difference between Hypothesis and Theory?Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory - Hypothesis vs Theory Comparison Summary

What is a Hypothesis

A hypothesis is a proposed explanation based on some evidence.  According to the Oxford dictionary, hypothesis is “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation” and Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “an idea or theory that is not proven but that leads to further study or discussion.”

However, a hypothesis is not scientifically tested or proven; it is a logical assumption based on the available evidence. A hypothesis can be accurate or inaccurate. Once the hypothesis is scientifically tested and proven, it becomes a theory.

Main Difference - Hypothesis vs Theory

The hypothesis of Andreas Cellarius, showing the planetary motions in eccentric and epicyclical orbits.

What is a Theory

Theory is an idea or set of ideas that is intended to explain facts or events. A theory is formulated after in-depth research analysis. It is always proven scientifically with evidence. The Oxford dictionary defines theory as “supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.”

As mentioned above, a theory is usually formulated from a hypothesis. Once a hypothesis is tested and proven, it is accepted as a theory. Copernicus’ Heliocentric theory, Darwin’s theory of evolution, quantum theory, special relativity theory, are examples of are some important scientific theories.

A theory can be used to understand, explain and make predictions over a concept. However, theories can be proven to be wrong as well, depending on the proof. However, theoretical knowledge is important in understanding different concepts and situations.

Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory

Special Theory of Relativity

Difference Between Hypothesis and Theory


Hypothesis is a proposed explanation for some phenomenon based on limited evidence.

Theory is an idea or set of ideas that is intended to explain facts or events.

Testing and Proof

Hypothesis is not scientifically tested or proven.

Theory is scientifically tested and proven.


Hypothesis is based on limited data.

Theory is based on a wide range of data.


Hypothesis can lead to a theory.

Theory can be formulated through a hypothesis.

Image Courtesy:

“Cellarius Harmonia Macrocosmica – Hypothesis Ptolemaica” By Andreas Cellarius – (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

“World line” By SVG version: K. Aainsqatsi at en.wikipediaOriginal PNG version: Stib at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia.(Original text : self-made) (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.