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exploration, n.

Brit. Hear pronunciation/ˌɛkspləˈreɪʃn/
U.S. Hear pronunciation/ˌɛkspləˈreɪʃən/
Forms:  1500s exploracion, 1500s– exploration. (Show Less)
Frequency (in current use):  Show frequency band information
Origin: A borrowing from Latin. Etymons: Latin explōrātiōn-, explōrātiō.
Etymology: < classical Latin explōrātiōn-, explōrātiō action of searching out, investigation, in post-classical Latin also (in medicine) diagnosis (7th cent. in a British source) < explōrāt-  , past participial stem of explōrāre  explore v.   + -iō  -ion suffix1.
Compare earlier explorator n., exploratory adj., slightly earlier explore v., and slightly later explorate v.
In sense 1b   originally after French exploration in its specific sense ‘physical examination of a part of the body’ (1764); compare Middle French exploracion, Middle French, French exploration detailed research (15th cent. in an isolated attestation, subsequently from the first half of the 19th cent.), action of exploring a place for purposes of discovery (first third of the 16th cent.; rare before 1797), and also Catalan exploració (16th cent.), Italian esplorazione (15th cent.).

 a. The action of examining thoroughly; investigation, scrutiny, study; an instance of this.In later use coloured by sense 2.

1544   Act 35 Henry VIII c. 10 in Statutes of Realm (1963) III. 967   Sir Wylliam Bowyer..by dylygent searche and exploracion found out dyvers great and plentifull springes, at Hampstede Hethe.
1601   W. Fulbecke Parallele or Conf. Law To Rdr. sig. ∗∗j   Men..who might by exploration seuer the drosse from the..gold.
1646   Sir T. Browne Pseudodoxia Epidemica v. xxi. §20. 271   [The use of the divining rod] is a fruitlesse exploration, strongly senting of Pagan derivation.  View more context for this quotation
1656   R. Vines Treat. Inst. Lords-Supper xxxiii. 370   The exploration..of their competency.
1690   R. Boyle Medicina hydrostatica v. 33   Our Hydrostatical Way of Exploration.
1737   J. Ozell tr. F. Rabelais Wks. III. xxxii. 224   Watchings, Wardings, Researchings, Plyings, Explorations, together with..malicious Doggings of the Husband's Scouts.
1786   Trans. Amer. Philos. Soc. 2 43   Furnished with proper instruments and materials for a full exploration of the phenomena that might occur.
1871   Ann. Rep. Amer. Inst. N.Y. 1870–1 171 in Docs. Assembly State N.Y. (94th Session, Doc. No. 111) IX   The exploration into the soluble and insoluble salts of soils and fertilizers, into life-giving and noxious gases.
1907   Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 8 521   The exploration of the electromagnetic field of the ring current.
1976   New Yorker 5 Jan. 30/1   Encounter..has been described as a way of achieving personal growth through the exploration of feelings among people gathered together for that purpose.
2011   Church Times 30 Dec. 24/5   They [sc. these novels] are a highly serious exploration of moral complexities and confusion.

1544—2011(Hide quotations)


 b. Medicine and Surgery. Originally: physical examination of a part of the body using the techniques of inspection, palpation, auscultation, and percussion (now rare). In later use: examination of an inner part of the body by a surgical or endoscopic procedure, esp. as an aid to diagnosis; an instance of this.

1833   J. Forbes et al. Cycl. Pract. Med. I. 6/1   If, in the course of our exploration, we discover any unusual swelling or indurated part, we must endeavour to ascertain its nature and various relations.
1868   Brit. Med. Jrnl. 2 May 427/2   Mr. De la Garde thought it high time to relieve him, and commenced with an exploration which he could convert into Syme's or Pirogoff's operation, if need were.
1880   W. Bodenhamer (title)    The Physical Exploration of the Rectum.
1902   J. O. Green in J. Warren & A. P. Gould Internat. Text-bk. Surg. (ed. 2) II. xxviii. 916   The depth to which these explorations may be carried without injuring specially important portions of the brain is of moment.
1918   Med. Rec. 20 Apr. 696/2   Exploration by lateral percussion of the apices during inspiratory ampliation of the lung may likewise detect very slight changes.
1967   Canad. Med. Assoc. Jrnl. 23 Sept. 767/1   The onset of jaundice caused by obstruction of the biliary tree is still the only event that will with any certainty bring the patient to abdominal exploration.
2012   J. Ebnezar Text & Atlas Complications Fractures xiii. 117/2   This requires exploration and fixing of the acetabular fragments with screws.

1833—2012(Hide quotations)


 2. The action of travelling to or around an uncharted or unknown area for the purposes of discovery and gathering information; (later also) the action or activity of going to or around an unfamiliar place in order to learn about it. Also as a count noun: an instance of this; an expedition for the purpose of discovery.

1616   T. Gainsford Rich Cabinet f. 89v   The publicke good is many wayes augmented by mutuall commerce, forren trading, exploration of countries, [etc.].
1657   J. Howell Londinopolis 33   Julius Casar..never took firm footing in Great Britain, but, by way of exploration, did only d'scover Her.
1794   J. Belknap Amer. Biogr. I. xii. 272   His enterprizing spirit led to an exploration of the country, and acquainted them with its many advantages.
1822   C. Lamb in London Mag. May 407/2   A lost chimney-sweeper..tired with his tedious explorations..laid his black head upon the pillow.
1872   H. I. Jenkinson Guide Eng. Lake District 275   This side of the Scawfell Pikes is deserving exploration.
1880   S. Haughton Six Lect. Physical Geogr. v. 222   The exploration of the sources of the Blue Nile.
1932   Geogr. Rev. 22 581   Our spotting of this valley from the air is only further proof of the value of the airplane and the aerial camera in exploration.
1971   P. Berton Last Spike iv. iii. 161   Rogers decided to try to reach the summit of the Selkirks and complete his exploration of the previous year.
1997   National Geographic Traveler July 59/2   For me, dedicated to on-foot exploration of cities, the Grand [hotel] is perfect, central to everything.
2011   K. M. Morin Civic Discipline v. 127   Exploration of America's Far West created some of the most important geographical knowledge recognized as such in the nineteenth century.

1616—2011(Hide quotations)


 3. The searching and testing of a designated area for natural resources, in order to determine whether mining or extraction activities are commercially viable. Also: an instance or means of doing this.oil exploration: see the first element.

1778   Encycl. Brit. III. 2036/1   Though plains be so favourable..to the production of coal,..clay, soil, and other lax matter..have..covered the surface of such plains to a considerable depth, which prevents the exploration of the solid strata there.
1849   C. T. Jackson in Executive Documents U.S. House of Representatives (31st Congress, 1st Sess.) No. 5. 457   It is obvious that the shallow pits now sunk on the vein [of copper] show only its surface, and that they can only be regarded..as mere superficial explorations.
1871   Belgravia Mag. Feb. 450   An entirely new source of candle-making material has been developed, from the exploration of the ozokerit mines bordering the Caspian Sea.
1884   Daily News 24 Sept. 3/2   The financial success..had not been such as to encourage costly exploration in unknown undergrounds.
1904   Independent 15 Sept. 598/1   The finding of gold in the Klondike region of Alaska has hastened the mineralogical exploration of the ice-lands.
1955   Oxf. Junior Encycl. VIII. 342/1   Further exploration is usually necessary in order to assess the commercial value of the deposit. This information may be obtained by core-drilling.
2002   Promotion Good Industr. Relations in Oil & Gas Production & Oil Refining (International Labour Organization) i. 4   Exploration for oil and gas reserves has turned to more remote, and sometimes more costly, locations.

1778—2002(Hide quotations)




 a. General attributive (in sense 2).

1858   H. S. Evans Geol. Made Easy 13   The largest [volcanoes] in the world are in the Sandwich Islands..and are fully described by Commodore Wilkes, in the American exploration voyage round the World, 1840–3.
1865   R. P. Whitworth Baillière's Victorian Gazetteer 20   In this area is the monument (unfinished) erected in commemoration of the Burke and Wills exploration expedition.
1891   Pall Mall Gaz. 11 Nov. 5/2   Mr. H. M. Stanley..would resume exploration work in Africa.
1945   Christian Sci. Monitor 17 Mar. 10/2 (caption)    A launch filled with returnees and their wives sets out on exploration tour of the coves.
1968   S. E. Whitfield in S. E. Whitfield & G. Roddenberry Making of ‘Star Trek’ i. vi. 79   It will be like a deep-space exploration vessel, operating throughout our galaxy.
2003   R. MacFarlane Mountains of Mind i. 4   By the end of that summer I had read a dozen or so of the most famous real-life exploration stories from the mountains and the poles.

1858—2003(Hide quotations)


 b. attributive. Of or relating to searching and testing for natural resources, esp. oil; as exploration rig, exploration well, etc. Cf. sense 3.

1873   T. B. Brooks in Geol. Surv. Mich. i. iv. 143   The large amount of exploration work, done in the vicinity of Negaunee, in searching for hematite within the last few years, has aided greatly to develop the geological structure of that locality.
1888   Trans. Amer. Inst. Mining Engineers 1887–8 16 907   A new interest was taken in the drilling of exploration wells, more particularly in search of gas.
1959   World Oil Apr. 107/2   A versatile new marine exploration device..has been applied recently to problems in connection with petroleum exploration.
1974   BP Shield Internat. Oct. 1/2   A considerable amount of detailed information from..certain exploration rigs scattered across the North Sea.
1983   Oil & Gas Jrnl. 5 Dec. 80   The contractor finances 100% of exploration costs, which are recoupable from production per contract area.
2012   Wall St. Jrnl. 18 Sept. b2/3   It will have to focus solely on drilling the initial stages of the exploration wells.

1873—2012(Hide quotations)


  exploration licence   n. a licence that permits the holder to search an area for natural resources and extract samples for a designated period in order to determine whether to proceed with extensive mining or extraction activities.

1864   S. Campbell et al. Rev. Statutes Nova-Scotia 110   Any party may apply for a license to occupy and work any vacant mine without having previously obtained or applied for an exploration license.
1908   Canada Handbk. (Emigrants' Information Office) 47   An exploration licence for three months costs $2 to $5 for 100 acres of surveyed land; mining licences for a year cost $5.
2005   Environmental Law Toolkit: NSW (Environmental Defender's Office NSW) iv. 143   An exploration licence allows the licence holder to prospect in a defined ‘exploration area’ for particular minerals... They are generally issued where significant mineral deposits have not yet been identified in an area.

1864—2005(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, June 2016; most recently modified version published online September 2021).

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