: a similarity often attributable to common origin
… the anthropologist is in the curious position of dealing with … striking homologies not necessarily due to historical contact …—Edward Sapir
evolutionary biology: correspondence or similarity in form or function between parts (such as the wing of a bat and the human arm) of different species resulting from modification of a trait possessed by a common ancestor : similarity of traits reflecting common descent and ancestry compare analogy, homoplasy
anatomy: correspondence in structure between a series of parts (such as vertebrae) in the same individual
: similarity of nucleotide or amino acid sequence (as in nucleic acids or proteins)
: a branch of the theory of topology concerned with partitioning space into geometric components (such as points, lines, and triangles) and with the study of the number and interrelationships of these components especially by the use of group theory
The similarity of a structure or function of parts of different origins based on their descent from a common evolutionary ancestor is homology. Analogy, by contrast, is a functional similarity of structure that is based on mere similarity of use. For example, the forelimbs of humans, bats, and deer are homologous; the form of construction and the number of bones in each are almost identical and represent adaptive modifications of the forelimb structure of their shared ancestor. The wings of birds and insects, on the other hand, are merely analogous; both are used for flight, but they do not share a common ancestral origin.
Examples of homology in a Sentence
Recent Examples on the WebThese became known as generalized homology theories.—Quanta Magazine, 9 Dec. 2021 Solidarity between oppressed peoples across the globe isn't about a perfect homology.—Cherrell Brown, refinery29.com, 21 June 2021 To find these implicit pictures, mathematicians use a technique known as persistent homology.—Kelsey Houston-Edwards, Scientific American, 21 Sep. 2022 After using some standard techniques to simplify the data, the team computed the persistent homology of the system by connecting the data points at different scales and examining the resulting simplicial complexes.—Kelsey Houston-Edwards, Scientific American, 21 Sep. 2022 Hayden and Sundberg had been doing some exciting work recently using an invariant called Khovanov homology, which uses algebra to extract information about how an object is put together.—Quanta Magazine, 16 June 2022 Toward this end, the book explains the important difference between analogy and homology.—David P. Barash, WSJ, 6 May 2022 Quanta also explored the origins of topology itself with a column in January and an explainer devoted to the related subject of homology.—Quanta Magazine, 23 Dec. 2021 After all, the Yunnan bat virus with the 96 percent homology to the Wuhan human strain was found approximately 1,000 miles away.—Maryn McKenna, Wired, 2 Dec. 2020 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'homology.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.