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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.

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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
    
thesaurus.com/browse/confirm –  RegDwigнt May 3 '12 at 13:31

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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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
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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

Disconfirm:

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.

Disprove:

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
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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

How about this...?

Rebut

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:

Debunk

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

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.

Definitions:

  • 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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