Hermeneutics is the philosophy and methodology of text interpretation, especially the interpretation of biblical texts, wisdom literature, and philosophical texts.
Hermeneutics was initially applied to the interpretation, or exegesis, of scripture. It emerged as an ontological methodology for understanding human nature through the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher (Romantic hermeneutics), Wilhelm Dilthey, Martin Heidegger (hermeneutic phenomenology), Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, Northrop Frye, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida (radical hermeneutics) and Fredric Jameson. Modern hermeneutics includes both verbal and nonverbal communication as well as semiotics, presuppositions, and preunderstandings.
The terms "hermeneutics" and "exegesis" are sometimes used interchangeably. Hermeneutics is a wider discipline which includes written, verbal, and nonverbal communication. Exegesis focuses primarily upon texts.
Hermeneutic, as a singular noun, refers to some particular method of interpretation (see, in contrast, double hermeneutic).
"Hermeneutic consistency" refers to the analysis of texts to achieve a coherent explanation of them. "Philosophical hermeneutics" refers primarily to the hypothesis of knowledge initiated by Martin Heidegger and developed by Hans-Georg Gadamer in his Truth and Method (1960). It sometimes refers to the theories of Paul Ricœur.