tel·​e·​o·​log·​i·​cal | \ ˌte-lē-ə-ˈlä-ji-kəl How to pronounce teleological (audio) , ˌtē- \
variants: or less commonly teleologic \ ˌte-​lē-​ə-​ˈlä-​jik How to pronounce teleological (audio) , ˌtē-​ \

Definition of teleological

: exhibiting or relating to design or purpose especially in nature

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Other Words from teleological

teleologically \ ˌte-​lē-​ə-​ˈlä-​ji-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce teleological (audio) , ˌtē-​ \ adverb

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Teleological (which comes to us by way of New Latin from the Greek root tele-, telos, meaning "end or purpose") and its close relative teleology both entered English in the 18th century, followed by teleologist in the 19th century. Teleology has the basic meaning of "the study of ends or purposes." A teleologist attempts to understand the purpose of something by looking at its results. A teleological philosopher might argue that we should judge whether an act is good or bad by seeing if it produces a good or bad result, and a teleological explanation of evolutionary changes claims that all such changes occur for a definite purpose.

Examples of teleological in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In this sense, history is not only rational but also providential: designed, purposive, teleological. James Wood, The New Yorker, 25 May 2020 To Kierkegaard, this sweeping teleological view left no room for human agency. Christopher Beha, Harper's Magazine, 27 Apr. 2020 Importantly, Thunberg’s criticisms of growth economics aren’t programmatic and teleological enough to place her on the left. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, 25 Sep. 2019 The standard story about mass printing is a story of linear, teleological progress. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, 23 Sep. 2019 For Williamson, a nation in existential crisis needs teleological guidance. Kayla Bartsch, National Review, 12 Aug. 2019 Too conservative, too wrapped up in the idea of human nature and teleological ends. Max C. Eden, National Review, 27 Aug. 2019 Different groups throughout Indian history have—like several others across the world—tried to look to their past and to religious texts to locate a teleological narrative. Vikram Sampath, Quartz India, 20 Aug. 2019 That is, to be less deontological (rights-based in their advocacy) and more teleological (ends-based). George Will, National Review, 4 Oct. 2017

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

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First Known Use of teleological

1797, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of teleological was in 1797

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Cite this Entry

“Teleological.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for teleological


te·​le·​o·​log·​i·​cal | \ ˌtel-ē-ə-ˈläj-i-kəl How to pronounce teleological (audio) , ˌtēl- How to pronounce teleological (audio) \
variants: also teleologic \ -​ˈläj-​ik How to pronounce teleological (audio) \

Medical Definition of teleological

: exhibiting or relating to design or purpose especially in nature

Other Words from teleological

teleologically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce teleological (audio) \ adverb


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