al·​ter·​i·​ty | \ ȯl-ˈter-ə-tē How to pronounce alterity (audio) , -ˈte-rə- \

Definition of alterity

: otherness specifically : the quality or state of being radically alien to the conscious self or a particular cultural orientation

Did you know?

You’re probably familiar with the verb alter, meaning "to make or become different," and you may not be surprised to learn that it is a relative of "alterity." Both words descend from the Latin word alter, meaning "other (of two)." That Latin alter, in turn, comes from a prehistoric Indo-European word that is also an ancestor of our "alien." "Alterity" has been used in English as a fancy word for "otherness" ("the state of being other") since at least 1642. It remains less common than "otherness" and tends to turn up most often in the context of literary theory or cultural studies.

Examples of alterity in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Moving through the world as a hybrid is rather dangerous because many people both fear and blame them for the virus, which opens the show up to explore issues of alterity. Chancellor Agard,, 2 June 2021 For Giggs, the whale is a potent but misleading symbol of the ocean’s infinity, its alterity and expansiveness. Amia Srinivasan, The New Yorker, 17 Aug. 2020 Bourdain’s magic lies is in his capacity to formulate the most updated representation of readily consumable alterity. Tunde Wey, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alterity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of alterity

1560, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for alterity

Middle English alterite "change, state of being changed, difference," borrowed from Late Latin alteritāt-, alteritās (as translation of Greek heterótēs), from Latin alter "second, other" + -itāt-, -itās -ity — more at alter

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The first known use of alterity was in 1560

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Cite this Entry

“Alterity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Aug. 2022.

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