Is Autological Heterological?
By Eric Solomon
This is just really fascinating, so I thought that I would share it.
An autological word is a word that describes itself. For example, “word” is a word. “Noun” is a noun. “Seventeen-lettered” is seventeen-lettered. You get the point.
But it gets more interesting. “Pentasyllabic” is autoglocial; it has five syllables. “Unhyphenated” does not have a hyphen; it is autological. You can pronounce “pronounceable”. The word “understandable” is indeed understandable.
But they do not even have to be words.
RAS syndrome (Redundant Acronym Syndrome syndrome) and TLA (three-letter acronym) are both autological.
Also, it can depend on context. For example,
are all autological in the context of this list.
Heterological means just the opposite. It is a word that does not have the property that it denotes.
For example, there is “adjective” and also “Spanish.”
I will let you think about why they are heterological.
Meet the Author:
I will finish with the two most perplexing questions of them all:
Is “autological” autological?
Is “heterological” autological?
I will leave you with an excerpt from Henry Segerman:
“Following 'heterological' around on itself to try to find out if it is autological or heterological leads to contradictions either way.* 'Autological' on the other hand is consistent both ways, so [it] cannot be proved to be either autological or heterological using that method.
However, in a different sense, it is autological: the word itself is a constructive expression, meaning "self-sensical". In other words, the components of the word (and hence the word) describe the word. Which is precisely the meaning of the word 'autological'.”
*Try this yourself!
Excerpt taken from