- speculation: abstract thought or contemplation
- idea formed by speculation: an idea of or belief about something arrived at through speculation or conjecture
The definition above is the definition of theory that is in common use among most of us in the English speaking world. The key word in that definition is "speculation," so let's take a moment to define that word as well so that by the time I am done we will be perfectly clear as to what that word means and how it ties into the definition of the word theory.
- opinion based on incomplete information: a conclusion, theory, or opinion based on incomplete facts or information
- reasoning based on incomplete information: reasoning based on incomplete facts or information
The next word we want to design is theory or "scientific theory" as it is used in science. For this next definition I have chosen to utilize a definition from a science education website called 'Live Science' I will be using the entire definition because at the same time it explains the scientific theory and differentiates the word theory as it is understood in common usage.
When used in non-scientific context, the word “theory” implies that something is unproven or speculative. As used in science, however, a theory is an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena.
As you can see in the diagram above and in the definition of scientific theory there is a huge difference on how scientists come up with theories and how they are interpreted. A scientific theory is an explanation of something based on observation, experimentation, and has been tested and confirmed as a general principle.
Note: Word definition were taken from Bing online and livescience.com