Science definition – What is science?

Science Definition

The word science comes from the Latin “scientia,” meaning knowledge.


How Do We Define Science?

According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, the definition of science is:

  • “knowledge attained through study or practice,” or
  • “knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, esp. as obtained and tested through scientific method [and] concerned with the physical world.”

What Does That Really Mean?

Science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge. This system uses observation and experimentation to describe and explain natural phenomena.

The term science also refers to the organized body of knowledge people have gained using that system.

Less formally, the word science often describes any systematic field of study or the knowledge gained from it.

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What Is the Purpose of Science?

Perhaps the most general description is that the purpose of science is to produce useful models of reality.

Most scientific investigations use some form of the scientific method. Find out more about the scientific method.

Science as defined above is sometimes called pure science to differentiate it from applied science, which is the application of research to human needs.

What is a Scientist?

A scientist is a person who works in and has expert knowledge of a particular field of science.

Or, more generally, any person who studies or works in a scientific field.

The Different Fields of Science

Fields of science are commonly classified along two major lines:

  • Natural sciences, the study of the natural world, and
  • Social sciences, the systematic study of human behavior and society.

Below is just a partial listing of some of the many, many different possible fields of study within science. Many of the fields listed here overlap to some degree with one or more other areas.


Anatomy Immunology
Astrobiology Marine biology
Biochemistry Microbiology
Bioinformatics Molecular Biology
Biophysics Morphology
Botany Neuroscience
Cell biology Physical anthropology
Developmental biology Physiology
Ecology Population dynamics
Entomology Structural biology
Epidemiology Taxonomy
Evolution (Evolutionary biology) Toxicology
Freshwater Biology Virology
Genetics Zoology


Analytical chemistry Polymer chemistry
Biochemistry Physical chemistry
Computational chemistry Quantum chemistry
Electrochemistry Spectroscopy
Inorganic chemistry Stereochemistry
Materials science Thermochemistry
Organic chemistry


Acoustics High Energy Physics
Astrodynamics Materials physics
Astronomy Mechanics
Astrophysics Nuclear physics
Biophysics Optics
Classical mechanics Particle physics
Computational physics Plasma physics
Condensed matter physics Polymer physics
Cryogenics Quantum mechanics
Dynamics Solid State physics
Fluid dynamics Thermodynamics

Earth Science

Environmental Science Meteorology
Geodesy Oceanography
Geography Paleontology
Geology Seismology

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