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I am looking at the following usage in particular: "I want to confirm this theory."

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closed as general reference by RegDwigнt May 3 '12 at 13:31

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

It depends on: in which sense of the word, and in what context, you want to use the sentence. Possible antonyms: refute, deny and other words. – Kris May 3 '12 at 13:10

7 Answers 7

I prefer to use the word refute in such a circumstance.

  1. to prove wrong by argument or evidence : show to be false or erroneous
  2. to deny the truth or accuracy of
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The empirical data obtained in a test—or, as we shall prefer to say, the observation sentences describing those data—may then either confirm or disconfirm the given hypothesis, or they may be neutral with respect to it.


By careful observation, I have disproved that the earth orbits the sun.

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Disconfirm is in MW but it's horrible. – Andrew Leach Jul 20 '12 at 9:36
To me, "disconfirm" means "fail to confirm". That is a much weaker claim than "refute". – Colin Fine Jul 20 '12 at 10:16
Upvote for 'disprove'. Meaning "prove falsehood of the claim". "Refute" is good too, but you usually refute a claim using a pre-existing proof of its falsehood. You disprove it by taking it apart and showing how it's wrong. – SF. Jul 20 '12 at 10:43
@AndrewLeach: I agree that it sounds like a non-word. But it's reasonably popular as per Google Books especially in science and philosophy. While it initially appeared to be a word inevitably - as in the example in my answer - paired with confirm, this isn't really the case either. Disprove is, as expected, far more popular. – coleopterist Jul 20 '12 at 12:10

You might want something like disprove, invalidate, or deny, no?

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Add refute and I think you got them all. – Mitch May 3 '12 at 13:17
I don't think someone would normally say, "I deny this theory" or "This experiment will deny your theory." I agree taht "disprove" and "refute" would be common words for that idea. – Jay May 3 '12 at 13:22
Some academics, in a moment of passionate emotion, might use something like destroy: "I want to destroy this theory!" (I'm not saying that's a good choice for an antonym, mind you, I'm just saying such a would could be used in that capacity.) – J.R. May 3 '12 at 13:33
What about debunk? The Merriam-Webster definition even has this sample sentence: The results of the study debunk his theory. – JLG May 3 '12 at 14:03
@JLG Oh yes, debunk!, Sure. – Kris May 3 '12 at 14:22

How about this...?


To deny the truth of something, especially by presenting arguments that disprove it.

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I would use reject or refute.

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What about:


To discredit, or expose to ridicule the falsehood or the exaggerated claims of something

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This is too informal to be used in an academic paper, which it most likely where the questioner has in mind to use it. – Jeffiekins Oct 12 '12 at 15:33
Seriously? This post is months old... – user23794 Oct 12 '12 at 19:53
@user23794 This is not a forum, questions, answers and comments are believed to have value for the future. – daramarak Sep 4 at 8:07

Denounce might be an option, but that usually refers to a commonly held belief being disproved. It also suggests its subject is non-scientific.

The other users suggested disprove and refute (which I like), which apply well in scientific experiments. More specifically, refute suggests you disproving a previously held belief, while disprove suggests your results turning out against a certain hypothesis or outcome.

In your example: "By careful observation, I have __ that the Earth orbits the sun.", I would probably go with disprove myself.


  • disprove — to prove that something is false
  • refute — to prove a statement or theory is wrong; disprove
  • denounce — publicly declare to be wrong; inform against
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