What is the difference in meaning or connotation of 'discovery' as compared to 'invention'? I think invention is the result of targeted search and discovery may be accidental.

One definition in The Oxford English Dictionary, edition 1971, of 'invention' is:

"I,1. The action of coming upon or finding; the action of finding out; discovery (whether accidental, or the result of search and effort)".

The OED has labelled this definition as 'obsolete and archaic'. Still, I wondered whether I might use 'discovery' in translating from Dutch to English in a text where 'invention' had already been used in abundance, just for the sake of variety.


1 Answer 1


So, first of all you have to be careful as some people will use these terms interchangeably or inaccurately.



Is something that someone came up with. It didn't exist before they made it. It is a result of their innovation. The combustion engine was invented, the earth contained no combustion engines before someone sat down and built the very first one.

Whereas a


Is someone finding out about something that already exists. For example, the gene that produces insulin was discovered. That gene has been around for millions of years, producing insulin, before someone discovered it.

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    mstorkson thank you for a polite and helpful answer.
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