Estimate vs. Guess
What’s the difference between estimate and guess? The distinction between the two words is one of the degree of care taken in arriving at a conclusion.
Estimate is from the Latin word aestimare, meaning “to value.” That term is also the origin of estimable, which means “capable of being estimated” or “worthy of esteem” (but is more often used in the latter sense), and of esteem, which means “regard” (and is usually associated with high regard).
To estimate is to judge the extent, nature, or value of something, with the implication that the result is based on expertise or familiarity. An estimate is the resulting calculation or judgment. (A related term is approximation, meaning “close or near.”)
Bridging the gap between a guess and an estimate is an educated guess, a more casual estimate. An idiomatic term for this type of middle-ground conclusion is “ballpark figure.” The origin of this American English idiom, which alludes to a baseball stadium, is not certain, but one conclusion is that it is related to “in the ballpark,” meaning “close” in the sense that one at such a location may not be in a precise location but is in the stadium.
To guess is to believe or suppose, to form an opinion based on little or no evidence, or to be correct by chance or conjecture. A guess is a thought or idea arrived at by one of these methods. Synonyms for guess include conjecture and surmise, which like guess can be employed both as verbs and as nouns.
One might also have a hunch or an intuition, or may engage in guesswork or speculation. “Dead reckoning” means the same thing as guesswork, though it originally referred to navigation based on reliable information. Near synonyms describing thoughts or ideas developed with more rigor include hypothesis and supposition, as well as theory and thesis.
In summary, a guess is a casual, perhaps spontaneous conclusion, whereas an estimate is based on some thought and/or data.
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