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From ecclesiastical Latin hypostasis, from Ancient Greek ὑπόστασις (hupóstasis, sediment, foundation; substance, existence, essence), from ὑπό (hupó) + στάσις (stásis, standing).



hypostasis (countable and uncountable, plural hypostases or hypostaseis)

  1. (medicine, now historical) A sedimentary deposit, especially in urine. [from 14th c.]
    • 1588, Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great, V.3:
      Physician: I have viewed your urine, and the hypostasis, / Thick and obscure, doth make the danger great.
    • 1999, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, translating Paracelsus, Opus Paramirum, in Essential Readings, North Atlantic Books 1999, p. 92:
      Thus the kidneys also have their particular excrement which is contained in it and is the hypostasis (deposit).
  2. (theology) The essential person, specifically the single person of Christ (as distinguished from his two ‘natures’, human and divine), or of the three ‘persons’ of the Trinity (sharing a single ‘essence’). [from 16th c.]
    • 1985, Anthony Burgess, Kingdom of the Wicked:
      What did the God who hammered the universe together have to do with virtue, redemption, the strange doctrine of hypostasis?
    • 2000, Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God, Harper 2004, p. 69:
      As Gregory of Nyssa had explained, the three hypostases of Father, Son, and Spirit were not objective facts but simply “terms that we use” to express the way in which the “unnameable and unspeakable” divine nature (ousia) adapts itself to the limitations of our human minds.
    • 2009, Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity, Penguin 2010, p. 218:
      As a result of this verbal pact, the Trinity consists of three equal hypostaseis in one ousia: three equal Persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) sharing one Essence or Substance (Trinity or Godhead).
  3. (philosophy) The underlying reality or substance of something. [from 17th c.]
    • 1975, Mary Boyce, History of Zoroastrianism, vol. I, Brill 1975, p. 59:
      Rašnu, the "Judge", appears to be the hypostasis of the idea embodied in the common noun rašnu, "judging, one who judges".
    • 1999, John Gregory (ed.), The Neoplatonists: A Reader, page 13:
      The One, Intellect and Soul, then, are the three transcendent sources – or hypostases – of existence.
    • 2006, George E. Karamanolis, Plato and Aristotle in agreement?, page 320:
      as far as we know, Porphyry did not consider the divine intellect to be a hypostasis clearly distinct from the Soul, but he often designated it ‘hypercosmic soul’.
  4. (genetics) The effect of one gene preventing another from expressing. [from 20th c.]
    • 1997, Vogul & Motulsky, Human Genetics: Problems and Approaches, page 141:
      When penetrance is suppressed altogether, the term ‘epistasis’ (and ‘hypostasis’ of the suppressed gene) is used.
  5. Postmortem lividity; livor mortis; suggillation.


Related terms[edit]