Now, one scientist is arguing that people should do away with these misunderstood words altogether and replace them with the word "model." But those aren't the only science words that cause trouble, and simply replacing the words with others will just lead to new, widely misunderstood terms, several other scientists said.
"A word like 'theory' is a technical scientific term," said Michael Fayer, a chemist at Stanford University. "The fact that many people understand its scientific meaning incorrectly does not mean we should stop using it. It means we need better scientific education."
From "theory" to "significant," here are seven scientific words that are often misused.
The general public so widely misuses the words hypothesis, theory and law that scientists should stop using these terms, writes physicist Rhett Allain of Southeastern Louisiana University, in a blog post on Wired Science.
"I don't think at this point it's worth saving those words," Allain told LiveScience.
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for something that can actually be tested. But "if you just ask anyone what a hypothesis is, they just immediately say 'educated guess,'" Allain said.