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I'm trying to find a word to complete the following phrase:

The experiment went through several [blank]s prior to the final design.

I'm simply trying to say that the experiments went through several different designs; several different formats etc. Previously I had settled on the word incantations, although I now realise this is incorrect usage.

Any ideas?

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Although incantations is incorrect in this context, incarnations (a concrete or actual form of a quality or concept) would have been perfectly valid. I think in some ways it could be better than revisions/iterations, since it implies each new version was a complete "rebirth", rather than a (possibly minor) variation on the previous one. –  FumbleFingers Oct 10 '12 at 11:38
    
Apparently, there's a severe dearth of recognizing a good question. 30 views, no up votes in over two hours. (Not as much enthusiasm as shown to quietly down vote and run.) –  Kris Oct 10 '12 at 13:46
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An "incantation" is the reciting of a magical spell, so unless the experiments are experiments in how to cast voodoo spells on your enemies or some such, "incantation" is indeed not the right word. –  Jay Oct 10 '12 at 14:06
    
@FumbleFingers: Why not post that as an answer instead of a comment? –  Alok Oct 10 '12 at 18:37
    
@Alok: I guess you're right. OP accepted SF's reassurance that his own iterations was valid here, but given he used the word "different" three times, arguably incarnations is actually better. So his acceptance notwithstanding, my alternative should be there for others to vote on. –  FumbleFingers Oct 10 '12 at 19:43
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7 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Although incantations is incorrect in this context, incarnations (a concrete or actual form of a quality or concept) would have been perfectly valid. I think in some ways it could be better than revisions/iterations, since it implies each new version was a complete "rebirth", rather than a (possibly minor) variation on the previous one.

Here are several hundred written instances of "went through several incarnations", many of which are very similar to OP's context. A typical one being...

The 4-inch-bore and 5-inch-stroke engine went through several incarnations as IHC struggled to get its problems resolved.

It really depends on whether OP wants to convey the impression that each different version was an incremental improvement on the previous version (in which case iterations works best), or that radical changes and redesigns were involved (in which case I think incarnations works best).

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This is the exact word I was looking for. I knew incantations sounded wrong! –  CaptainProg Oct 10 '12 at 23:25
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@CaptainProg: Ah. Well thanks for switching your "accept" tick then. As you probably noticed, I'd originally posted this as a comment because I assumed from the earlier tick against "iterations" that your were happy with that as an answer. I thought I was just trying to explain to you (and anyone else who was interested) why you might have thought of "incantations" in the first place. I'm thinking now that you must have had incarnations in the back of your mind all the time - you just got a couple of letters wrong! –  FumbleFingers Oct 11 '12 at 20:56
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Iterations is the right word here, unless they were completely different. Iterations bear similarity between each other but are rarely identical. (In programming, iterations of a loop that runs a finite state machine are very different from each other in all parts that matter.)

Otherwise, it could be said the experiment went through several approaches, where the approach to the result was totally changed each time.

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How about the experiment went through several revisions prior to the final design?

(Or you could also just as easily say that the experiment went through several changes or variations as alternatives to that too)

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If the designs were continually improving, you could use increments.

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If what you are trying to say is that you had to do essentially the same experiment several times before you got it right, then "iterations" is a good choice. The word "iterations" carries the idea of repeating something. Multiple iterations are not necessarily identical, but they are similar.

If you are trying to say that you had to keep changing the experiment, as is rather implied by your phrase "final design", you might want to say that it went through many "revisions" or "versions" or "updates".

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+1 whats wrong with "versions"? –  Mikey Oct 10 '12 at 23:32
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if the experiment was constantly changing, how about using "evolutions"

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Try permutations. It implies a set of items in which each one is derived from an initial state with a specific change.

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