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Can both "guess" and "hunch" be used interchangeably or is there a minute difference? I know it doesn't apply to the phrase 'I guess', but generally when do you use "hunch"?

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Guesses are more assertive than hunches. A hunch can be seen as a hint or feeling and is something that typically indicates a suspected outcome or result:

I have a hunch that they are lying.

My hunch suggests otherwise.

I am only working on hunches.

The conveyed message is that there isn't much rhyme or reason behind a hunch. The only backing is... just that it exists. You very rarely have control over hunches and once you can point toward why you have a hunch it starts becoming less of a hunch and more of a guess.

A guess can drift from potshots to educated guesses and are considered more challengeable. Where a hunch simply describes your feelings or thoughts, a guess is expected to have some meat behind it. Asking why of a guess is expected. Asking why of a hunch is pretty pointless.

In terms of use, guess can be seen as a strict upgrade from hunch:

I guess that they are lying.

I guess otherwise.

I am only working on guesses.

The scale does continue from there, but the range of guess is very broad and context is important:

If you had to guess, what is the population of Mexico?

I don't know the answer, but I can guess.

Are you guessing?

This is an educated guess.

I have no idea, but my guess is five.

I can guess.

Beyond guess are words like answer:

This is my answer.

What is the answer?

Is that your final answer?

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Interesting. I would have answered the exact opposite of this. Guess (without "educated" in front of it) to me implies you are no more certain about the answer than any other, but are arbitrarily picking that one. Hunch implies you have some reason for picking the choice you are picking. Perhaps it is a reason you can't quite articulate, but it is there. –  T.E.D. Jul 1 '11 at 18:09
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I see the difference not so much in definite-ness but in the ability to articulate one's motivations. I can be totally indefinite in a guess, but I know why I took that guess (because the dice came up 6s, say); but if I have a hunch, I can't pinpoint why I have it. –  JPmiaou Jul 1 '11 at 21:40
    
@JPmiaou: I think the term "guess" can cover a much wider range of certainty than "hunch", though certain contexts (e.g. "just a guess" or "a lucky guess") may clarify narrow it down. The term "guess" may apply in cases where one picks something arbitrarily at random because even a choice that may be wrong would be better than none at all, or to cases where one has a particular, strong, and well-founded belief. "Hunch" generally implies a particular belief, but one which is not especially well-founded. –  supercat Nov 15 '13 at 17:30
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A "hunch" is typically associated with someone having an intuitive, "gut feeling" about something.

I have a hunch that the plants were moved by an animal.

A "guess" is usually more generic and hints at less intuition or feeling and a tiny bit more cognition.

Can you guess who was at the party?

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Actually, a "hunch" is quite often based on something more tangible than a simple gut feeling (eg: A witness being evasive. Unusual red dirt in a suspect's car, etc). –  T.E.D. Jul 1 '11 at 18:14
    
A hunch could also be more of an educated guess. Because of other scenerios this is likely so i have a hunch it could apply here. –  Chad Jul 1 '11 at 18:27
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For me the differentiation is that one can precede the other in only one instance, meaning a hunch can precede a guess, but a guess would not precede a hunch.

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Welcome to EL&U. If by 'precede' you mean what I think you mean, then I'll upvote your answer (if not, I guess I don't understand it! :) I think you can have a hunch about something before you're even conciously aware there's a question at issue that might require an answer (or guess). Is that what you mean? If so, you can always edit your answer to clarify this point. –  FumbleFingers Jul 1 '11 at 21:43
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