tautology

noun

tau·​tol·​o·​gy tȯ-ˈtä-lə-jē How to pronounce tautology (audio)
plural tautologies
1
a
: needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word
Rhetorical repetition, tautology ('always and for ever'), banal metaphor, and short paragraphs are part of the jargon.Philip Howard
b
: an instance of such repetition
The phrase "a beginner who has just started" is a tautology.
2
logic : a statement that is true by virtue of its logical form alone
A logical combination of sentences that is always true, regardless of the truth or falsity of the constituent sentences, is known as a "tautology."Rudy Rucker
… now the objection was raised that the entire theory of natural selection rested on a tautology: "Who survives? The fittest. Who are the fittest? Those that survive."Ernst Mayr

Examples of tautology in a Sentence

“A beginner who has just started” is a tautology.
Recent Examples on the Web In his world view, doomed romanticism isn’t an oxymoron but a tautology: to experience love deep within one’s bones comes at the cost of one’s earthly comforts and worldly aspirations, even one’s life. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 17 Apr. 2024 At first, the subjective theory might be misunderstood as a tautology – market goods are worth what people will pay for them. Dave Birnbaum, Forbes, 19 Feb. 2024 Too often, analysts of these anticorruption drives fall into a tautology, assuming that anyone purged for graft by an autocrat must have been an enemy of the autocrat to begin with—otherwise, why would they have been purged? Andrew Leber, Foreign Affairs, 15 Nov. 2017 Which is a tautology. Patrick Skerrett, STAT, 3 Mar. 2023 The tautology of our discovery vexed us for days. Rachel Kushner, Harper’s Magazine , 20 July 2022 Yet, sadly, this kind of glorious sandwich has become a very rare thing in America, and one need not be a New York prig to contend that outside of New York, good Jewish deli—which is a tautology—is nearly impossible to find, with the exception of one or two places in Los Angeles. John Mariani, Forbes, 27 Oct. 2021 The earliest origins of this tautology are murky. Washington Post, 18 Aug. 2020 Most famously, Google’s PageRank algorithm settles the matter with a tautology: the most relevant web page was the one that had the most links from the other relevant web pages. Scott Penberthy, Scientific American, 7 Dec. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tautology.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Late Latin tautologia, from Greek, from tautologos

First Known Use

1566, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of tautology was in 1566

Dictionary Entries Near tautology

Cite this Entry

“Tautology.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tautology. Accessed 15 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

tautology

noun
tau·​tol·​o·​gy tȯ-ˈtäl-ə-jē How to pronounce tautology (audio)
plural tautologies
: needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word
also : an instance of such repetition
"a beginner who has just started" is a tautology
tautological
ˌtȯt-ᵊl-ˈäj-i-kəl
adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on tautology

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