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zetetics, n.

Frequency (in current use): 
Etymology: < zetetic n. 2   (see -ic suffix 2).
Mathematics. rare and now only in historical contexts.

  The study of mathematical problems by expressing them in terms of equations and solving these algebraically, according to certain laws first specified by French mathematician François Viète (1540–1603).Zetetics, together with Viète's system for denoting both variables and constants by letters, represented a significant development in the systematic study and application of algebra.

1843   Penny Cycl. XXVII. 775/2   Zetetics, a name given by Vieta..to the part of algebra which consists in the direct search after unknown quantities.
1969   Source Bk. Math., 1200–1800 ii. 75   The term ‘zetetics’ never became popular.
2001   H. J. M. Bos Redefining Geom. Exactness viii. 146   Zetetics was the art of translating a problem, be it an arithmetical or a geometrical one, into one or more algebraic equations.

This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, June 2018).