• alterity •
awl-ter-rê-ti • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Otherness, difference, the state of being different, diversity.
Notes: This is a Frenchier alternative to otherness. It should be the noun for the verb (to) alter, but its sense is more closely related to the Latin adjective in 'alter ego'. It is related to alternative and its mother alternate but has no other lexical relatives.
In Play: Diversity is a subnotion of alterity: "Some people find diversity difficult to accept because they are uncomfortable with alterity." Such people are more comfortable with homogeneity. Wokeness is a nontraditional approach to alterity: "The traditional treatment of alterity is to omit mention of those reflecting it."
Word History: Today's Good Word is made up of alter + -ity, a nominalizing suffix. Alter was captured intact from Latin alter "other (of two)", which Latin concocted from PIE al- "beyond, besides, other" + -ter, the same suffix we find in English other, brother, and mother. We find traces of al- in Latin uls "beyond", which went into the creation of ulterior "more remote". We find evidence of it in Sanskrit arana- "far, strange", Greek allos "other", Latin alius "other things", Czech loni "last year", Serbian lani "last year", Armenian ayl "other", Irish alltar "other world" and eile "other", Welsh ail "second", Cornish eyl "second, English all, Icelandic ellar "otherwise", and German alle "all". (Now let's thank Sue Gold, staunch e-mail contributor since 2007, for today's thought-provoking Good Word.)
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