What is the difference between ‘discover’ and ‘uncover’?


There are many cases where either word could be used. However uncover carries the implication that something was covered or hidden, often on purpose or perhaps with the passing of time. Something that was previously known is being re-discovered.

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  • That becomes clear when we say that food was uncovered but not discovered...thanks. – nicholas ainsworth Apr 2 '11 at 12:04

One generally "discovers" something that is unknown (or at least, unknown to the demographic being referred to), but they "uncover" something that has been deliberately hidden.

Essentially, to dis-cover something is to make it no longer covered. To un-cover something it to remove a cover that was intentionally placed.

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"uncover" emphasizes the preexistence of the truth, while "discover" does the creative work of the one who discovers. The old truth unveils itself according to its own time, while a creative scientist disovers a new truth. Thus,"uncover" attributes its credit to the truth itself, while "discover" does its credit to the work of man.

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"Discover" is to find new objects or new information yourself, whereas "uncover" is to reveal something that has been hidden or unknown for long periods of time, often to the public.

I discovered that he had been having an affair. (I found out somehow)

I uncovered that he had been having an affair. (I looked into it and found out, and I have exposed/will expose it to others)

"Discover" is more likely to go with words like "island" "path" "species of animals" "galaxy" or something concrete and finite.

"Uncover" is more likely to go with words like "mystery" "history" "scandal" "truth" or something that is abstract containing further detail.

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  • Welcome to ELU.SE. Ken, while your answer is fitting, this site strives to provide objective answers. As it stands your answer is purely subjective and could be improved by adding references. Take the tour or have a look at the help center to find out more about good answers. – Helmar Oct 7 '16 at 10:25

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