I am looking for a single word, used in mathematics (but not exclusively), meaning to take a guess which will later be proved to be correct.

I believe it starts with an 'a', and I seem to remember it being something similar to alcantz, alcats, ancaltz, first hearing it used by a professor in a lecture.

Edit (to add an example sentence): An example sentence: "I solved the problem through the use of an (insert word)."

  • 1
    Hi packetpacket, welcome to EL&U. You might not be aware that there are strict rules for single-word-requests: "To ensure your question is not closed as off-topic, please be specific about the intended use of the word. You must include a sample sentence demonstrating how the word would be used." You can add this using the edit link. For further guidance, see How to Ask, and make sure you also take the EL&U Tour :-) Feb 24 '19 at 22:37
  • 1
    I believe you're describing a hypothesis. Or a conjecture. Or a theorem. Feb 24 '19 at 22:54

The word you are looking for is ansatz, which is German (although used by English-speaking physicists and mathematicians).

Wikipedia: In physics and mathematics, an ansatz is an educated guess that is verified later by its results.)

  • Can we still use ansatz before we've verified it or if it turns out to be incorrect? e.g., I tried the anstatz $y=x^2$ but it did not work, or we are trying the ansatz $t=\cos u$ but we haven't verified it yet.
    – innisfree
    Feb 25 '19 at 3:45
  • I would say that we could, and MathWorld appears to support that usage, mathworld.wolfram.com/Ansatz.html
    – innisfree
    Feb 25 '19 at 3:46
  • Indeed, the German word just means an attempt, approach, beginning in colloquial speech. I'd be curious whether that's Satz", "sentence" in the mathematical sense or "set, setting" as in the related, polysemuous verb "ansetzen". dict.cc/?s=ansetzen notes "formulate [mathematics]", reminding me of the formular, i.e. "secret sauce*.
    – vectory
    Apr 27 '19 at 21:47
  • I'd like to compare that to Ein-Satz, einsetzen (via historic confusion of on, in, ein, an* perhaps), thus Ein-Leitung (introduction) and thus induction. Inductive reasoning is something found to be true from experience, not from logical proof. An educated guess may mean exactly that. How about using a two word construct from conjecture with an appropriate adjective instead? proven conjecture would be an oxymoron, though.
    – vectory
    Apr 27 '19 at 22:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.