Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


someone who is trained in science, especially someone whose job is to do scientific research

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun scientist comes from Latin ‘scientia‘, probably via the stem of the adjective ‘scientific’ plus the suffix -ist. It was first recorded in English in the first part of the 19th century and has replaced the earlier term ‘sciencist’.


It’s only a few weeks since we looked at the word science, to mark Women in Science Day. But this is Science Week (actually lasting ten days, but that’s a little less catchy) so it seems worth looking at the term scientist and its relatives. Scientist appears in compounds where the first element tells you what kind of science they do: they include climate scientist (a recent addition to Macmillan Dictionary), as well as terms related to the social sciences, such as political scientist and social scientist. A citizen scientist is slightly different: these are not scientists who study citizenship, but rather citizens who do science. Many terms for scientists do not include the word itself but rather use the suffix -ist; so a physicist is a scientist who does physics and a geneticist is someone who studies genetics. The related adjective is scientific and the adverb is scientifically.


When I find myself in the company of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake into a room full of dukes.
(W H Auden, The Dyer’s Hand)

I never wanted to be a scientist per se. I wanted to be a naturalist.
(Jane Goodall)

Related words

botanist, biologist, chemist, naturalist, physicist

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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