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From Ancient Greek ἕτερος (héteros, different) + λόγος (lógos, word), by surface analysis, hetero- +‎ logical.


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heterological (not comparable)

  1. (grammar) Of a word, not describing itself.
    • 1993, Noel Balzer -, The Human Being as a Logical Thinker, →ISBN, page 70:
      A paradox arises when we ask, "Is the word 'heterological' heterological." If it is, it is not. If it is not, it is.
  2. (philosophy) Not true of itself.
    • 1880, Mind - Volume 5, page 144:
      A further instance of the uncertainty of Prof. Bergmann's views on the subject of negation, is the distinction (considered by him as at least supposable) between " nicht-richtig " and "unrichtig" (§21,5.). This is done, of course, in order to put a " heterological " meaning into his Axiom of Excluded Middle,
    • 1994, Christopher Norris, Truth and the Ethics of Criticism, →ISBN, page 50:
      It is the dream of a purely heterological thought at its source. A pure thought of pure difference.
    • 2007, Constantin V. Boundas, Columbia Companion to Twentieth-century Philosophies, →ISBN, page 489:
      But a process philosophy, in order to support a purely heterological thought, has to be capable of doing without subjects steering the process or being steered by it, without substantive names designating 'blocks' in motion, and without points of origin or destination invigilating over a predictable trajectory.
  3. (biology) Having the potential to develop into different forms.
    • 1884, The American Naturalist, page 675:
      It is double and heterological in the middle organs or passages.
    • 1920, Science - Volume 52, page 181:
      The normally situated non-transplanted gonads have the best chance of being able to absorb these substances, for which reason heterological (perhaps also homological) gonads, transplanted on normal organisms, can not get enough of these substances and therefore perish.
    • 1983, Franz Schmid, Cell Therapy: A New Dimension of Medicine, page 106:
      Growth indices from density and extension of the zones of emigration in explants of rat bone-marrow on addition of various heterological tissue as against the controls.
  4. Supporting or attracted to otherness.
    • 1992, Denis Hollier, Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille, →ISBN, page 74:
      That is why it could only have a multitude of names, could only be expressed by the lexical extravagance to which it inevitably leads heterological practice and, as such, does not escape the substitutive discourse. Eroticism is just one of the names of heterological impulse at work — Incomplete through the metonymic effect of the copula — throughout The Caesarean Incomplete.
    • 2007, Stuart Kendall, Georges Bataille, →ISBN:
      Bataille's writings in mythical anthropology from the late 1920s already associated the name Sade with a heterological interpretation of erotic expenditure.
    • 2013, Rodanthi Tzanelli, Heritage in the Digital Era: Cinematic Tourism and the Activist Cause, →ISBN:
      This produced a bifurcated narrative of identity as otherness, a heterological trope akin to that we encounter in the ill-defined domain of the Caribbean (Sheller 2003, 2004).
  5. Having or supporting multiple interpretations.
    • 2003, Johannes Siapkas, Heterological Ethnicity: Conceptualizing Identities in Ancient Greece:
      Indeed, Godzich has situated de Certeau in a heterological tradition, a scholarly tradition in opposition to the hegemonical tradition which has dominated western intellectual thinking. Scholars in the heterological tradition relativise scholarship and point to the constraints enforced by the contemporary social context on the production of truth.
    • 2009, Maria Nikolajeva, Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers, →ISBN:
      Postcolonial theory provides yet another binarity: (ethnic) majority/minority, or imperialistic/ indigenous, yet another aspect of power hierarchy. Therefore I choose in discussions of gender to speak of heterological rather than feminist or queer analysis.
    • 2009, Richard Bourne, Seek the Peace of the City, →ISBN:
      By using this language we can express Yoder's vision of the church as a community that opens up these heterological spaces as partial significations of the coming Kingdom.
    • 2009, Eric Boynton, Martin Kavka, Saintly Influence: Edith Wyschogrod and the Possibilities of Pholosophy of Religion, →ISBN:
      I will suggest that, if we press the logic of her argument in ways she does not, then either Wyschogrod or God (however named) appears ultimately responsible for training her book's reader in the practice of heterological history.


  • (antonym(s) of not describing itself): autological
  • (antonym(s) of capable of developing into different forms): homological

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