mid-14c., "state or fact of knowing; what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;" also "assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty," from Old French science "knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge" (12c.), from Latin scientia "knowledge, a knowing; expertness," from sciens (genitive scientis) "intelligent, skilled," present participle of scire "to know."
The original notion in the Latin verb probably is "to separate one thing from another, to distinguish," or else "to incise." This is related to scindere "to cut, divide" (from PIE root *skei- "to cut, split;" source also of Greek skhizein "to split, rend, cleave," Gothic skaidan, Old English sceadan "to divide, separate").
OED writes that the oldest English sense of the word now is restricted to theology and philosophy. From late 14c. in English as "book-learning," also "a particular branch of knowledge or of learning, systematized knowledge regarding a particular group of objects;" also "skillfulness, cleverness; craftiness." From c. 1400 as "experiential knowledge;" also "a skill resulting from training, handicraft; a trade."
From late 14c. in the more specific sense of "collective human knowledge," especially that gained by systematic observation, experiment, and reasoning. The modern (restricted) sense of "body of regular or methodical observations or propositions concerning a particular subject or speculation" is attested by 1725; in 17c.-18c. this commonly was philosophy.
The sense of "non-arts studies" is attested from 1670s. The distinction is commonly understood as between theoretical truth (Greek epistemē) and methods for effecting practical results (tekhnē), but science sometimes is used for practical applications and art for applications of skill.
The predominant modern use, "natural and physical science," generally restricted to study of the phenomena of the material universe and its laws, is by mid-19c.
To blind (someone) with science "confuse by the use of big words or complex explanations" is attested from 1937, originally noted as a phrase from Australia and New Zealand.
The men who founded modern science had two merits which are not necessarily found together: Immense patience in observation, and great boldness in framing hypotheses. The second of these merits had belonged to the earliest Greek philosophers; the first existed, to a considerable degree, in the later astronomers of antiquity. But no one among the ancients, except perhaps Aristarchus, possessed both merits, and no one in the Middle Ages possessed either. [Bertrand Russell, "A History of Western Philosophy," 1945]
Science, since people must do it, is a socially embedded activity. It progresses by hunch, vision, and intuition. Much of its change through time does not record a closer approach to absolute truth, but the alteration of cultural contexts that influence it so strongly. Facts are not pure and unsullied bits of information; culture also influences what we see and how we see it. Theories, moreover, are not inexorable inductions from facts. The most creative theories are often imaginative visions imposed upon facts; the source of imagination is also strongly cultural. [Stephen Jay Gould, introduction to "The Mismeasure of Man," 1981]
The term pseudo-science is hybrid, and therefore objectionable. Pseudognosy would be better etymology, but the unlearned might be apt to association with it the idea of a dog's nose, and thus, instead of taking "the eel of science by the tail," take the cur of science by the snout; so that all things considered we had better adopt the current term pseudo-sciences ["The Pseudo-Sciences," in The St. James's Magazine, January 1842]
1580s, "concerned with the acquisition of accurate and systematic knowledge of principles by observation and deduction," from French scientifique, from Medieval Latin scientificus "pertaining to science," from Latin scientia "knowledge" (see science) + -ficus "making, doing," from combining form of facere "to make, to do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). The Latin word was used originally to translate Greek epistēmonikos "making knowledge" in Aristotle's "Ethics."
By 1670s as "guided by the principles of science," hence "learned, skillful;" by 1722 as "of, pertaining to, or used in science." By 1794 as "according to the rules of science."
Sciential (mid-15c., sciencial, "based on knowledge," from Latin scientialis) is the classical purists' choice for an adjective based on science. Scientic (1540s) and scient ("learned" late 15c.) also have been used. Scientistic (1878), however, is depreciative, "making pretentions to scientific method but not right."
The phrase scientific revolution for "rapid and widespread development of science" is attested from 1803; scientific method is by 1835; scientific notation is from 1961. Related: Scientifical; scientifically.
As the name of a method of teaching reading by associating letters or groups of letters with particular sounds in an alphabetic writing system, especially as correlations between sound and symbol, it is attested by 1901 and became prominent in that sense after 1950, though the systematic method itself dates from the 1830s.