Is there a single word or a phrase for 'something that indicates a direction to pursue or gain knowledge'?

I want to use this word for 'Symmetry'. I want to write about how symmetry helps us think in appropriate directions to uncover the mysteries of the universe. So if the word is 'X' then the sentence would go like this:

"Symmetry is an X conception."

This should mean it is a conception that helps us think in right directions to gain knowledge.

  • 3
    Welcome to English Language & Usage. The following is the strict rule of this community. Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests. Please edit your question accordingly. Especially, you had better write an example sentence where this word would be used.
    – user140086
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 16:13
  • Are you referring to a rigorous principle, like Noether's theorem, or something more nebulous? Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 18:46
  • @200_success Yeah, just like Noether's theorem or other symmetry arguments from Physics.
    – ACat
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 19:52
  • 1
    You may have answered your own question with the word argument. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 19:56
  • @200_success. You are right. But in the edited version of the question, I specified that I am looking for an adjective.
    – ACat
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 20:01

10 Answers 10


Heuristic serves both as noun and adjective for this.

As adjective:

helping to learn; guiding in discovery or investigation (Collins).

Of, relating to, or enabling discovery or problem-solving, esp. through relatively unstructured methods such as experimentation, evaluation, trial and error, etc. (OED)

As a (count) noun, it refers to something that is heuristic in the adjectival sense, especially any more or less systematic process or method for generating ideas (which function belongs to Invention, the first of the five canons of classical rhetoric, heuresis in Greek or inventio in Latin).


You might consider beacon as a suitable metaphor for this.

Symmetries are the beacons of knowledge.

This would be a concise and effective way to express your idea.


I believe you are referring to a sign-post:

noun 1. a post bearing a sign that gives information or guidance. 2. any immediately perceptible indication, obvious clue, etc.

Originally and literally, this is a metal or wooden rod driven vertically into the ground, in order to hold a sign. Said sign gives information about which direction to turn for the nearest gas station, or to get to a particular town. From there, is has developed a figurative meaning as anything that gives guidance or clues. For example, "When my doctor gave me the lab results, it was a sign-post that I needed to change my dietary habits."

In response to your edit: You could say something like "Symmetry is a sign-post to the wonders of our world."

  • Isn't there any adjective?
    – ACat
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 16:40
  • @Dvij: I've done a little looking around, and couldn't find any similar word which could work as an adjective, other than possibly bellwether. But that word is not commonly used and carries more of a sense of leading, not guiding.
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 16:53

I suggest edifying,

  • (adj.) providing moral or intellectual instruction

    [Google Definition]

  • Instruct or improve (someone) morally or intellectually



You could perhaps say,

Symmetry is an edifying conception.

Note that it is synonymous with illuminating, uplifting etc.


They would both sound better (to me, at least) with “concept” than with “conception,” but I would suggest either “guiding concept” (example usage from ‘Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences’, via ‘Google Books’)
or “enlightening concept.” (example usage from ‘From Pink to Blue: An Enlightening Concept That Awakens “Truth of Being” and Reminds You To Focus on the Path You Were Born to Follow’ by Marilyn Louise Lawrence, via ‘Google Books’)

Adj. 1. Guiding - exerting control or influence; "a guiding principle"

2 guiding - showing the way by conducting or leading; imposing direction on; "felt his mother's directing arm around him"; "the directional role of science on industrial progress"

Adj. 1. Enlightening - tending to increase knowledge or dissipate ignorance; "an enlightening glimpse of government in action"; "an illuminating lecture"

(both from ‘The Free Dictionary’ and ‘Farlex’)


What about epistemological? It might be a bit highbrow, but it could work.

  • 1
    Epistemic might be nearer the mark. Freedictionary does not do the word justice, but I happen to know it has been used since at least 1967 in and of a theory of rhetoric that holds that discourse creates knowledge rather than just transmitting it. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 21:44

Mind-expanding, perhaps.

'Producing increased awareness or understanding' http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mind-expanding


Pedagogical might fit your usage.


of or relating to teachers or education

  • Pedagogical is most often used as a niche term for teachers about teaching. A concept is usually only pedagogical if it serves to help teachers teach.
    – Adam Hayes
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 17:10
  • I think pedagogical might be more suited when something is used to guide someone to learn a thing in a situation where the one is being guided by a teacher. I wanted to find a term that could describe a thing that could be used by someone to learn a previously unknown thing in a situation where there is no other guide. @BrianDonovan's suggestion "epistemic" (following Brad's suggestion "epistemological") seems more close to what I had in mind at the time.
    – ACat
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 21:09

How about 'a valuable concept' or 'an invaluable concept'?

Collins Dictionaries' definition of the adjective 'invaluable':

having great value that is impossible to calculate; priceless

and 'valuable':


  1. having considerable monetary worth
  2. of considerable importance or quality
  3. able to be valued

Collins Dictionaries' definition of 'invaluable'

Collins Dictionaries' definition of 'valuable'


After brainstorming a little i got two words for u man

1)maneuver : noun: maneuver

1.a movement or series of moves requiring skill and care. "snowboarders performed daring manoeuvres on precipitous slopes" synonyms: operation, exercise, activity, move, movement, action "a tricky parking manoeuvre"

2.A large-scale military exercise of troops, warships, and other forces. "the Russian vessel was on manoeuvres" synonyms: training exercises, exercises, war games, operations "large-scale military manoeuvres"

verb verb: maneuver

1.move skilfully or carefully. "the lorry was unable to manoeuvre comfortably in the narrow street" synonyms: steer, guide, drive, negotiate, navigate, pilot, direct, manipulate, move, work, jockey "I manoeuvred the car into a parking space"

2.carefully guide or manipulate (someone or something) in order to achieve an end. "they were manoeuvring him into betraying his friend"

2)augmentation : noun: augmentation:

the action or process of making or becoming greater in size or amount. "the augmentation of the curriculum with new subjects"

You can use these words collaboratively like this : maneuver of augmentation this will work because maneuver in broad terms means moving skillfully , carefully

augment means to grow, to increase in a positive direction


Augment meaning

Maneuver Meaning

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