Suppose that I have a property such that any object which possesses it is the only object which possesses it. For example we might suppose that the property of "being Sally's partner" is such a property as Sally is a monogamist.

Is there a name for such a property?

I thought it might be called a definite description but the Stanford Encyclopedia article on descriptions http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descriptions claims that a definite description is a sentence not a property- so a sentence like "John is Sally's partner" is a definite description.

  • This seems to be largely an English question rather than necessarily a philosophy question. Can you expand on why this is a philosophy question? (The words "monopoly" and "singular" come to mind btw). – virmaior Apr 16 '16 at 1:41
  • If I asked the question- "Is there a word for a sentence of the form "The F is G" then the answer would be that such a sentence is called a definite description so this question falls under the purview of philosophy (as well as linguistics) and is thus (I assume) a valid question for this forum. How can I tell before receiving an answer that such properties haven't been studied by philosophers (of language)? – Bernard W Apr 16 '16 at 1:55
  • But having said that I would welcome it if you are able to advise me on how to rephrase my question more constructively as this is the first question I have asked on this forum! – Bernard W Apr 16 '16 at 1:56
  • Might "exclusive" meet your needs? – Cort Ammon Apr 16 '16 at 2:11
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    Unique? As in 2 is the unique even prime. The name for the property would be "uniquely characterizing." As in, the property of being an even prime uniquely characterizes the number 2. This is a common usage in math. – user4894 Apr 16 '16 at 2:56

There is an old philosophical term: the latin haecceitas:

which translates as "thisness", and denotes the discrete qualities, properties or characteristics of a thing which make it a particular thing. Haecceity is a person or object's "thisness", the individualising difference between the concept "a man" and the (individual) concept "Socrates" (a specific person).

Haecceity is a literal translation of the equivalent term in Aristotle's Greek to ti esti or "the what (it) is."


This is pretty clearly a definite description. An example of another one is "The tree closest to The White House on Jan 1, 2016." It picks out a unique thing which may or may not have been given a name.

It is not the case that definite descriptions are sentences.

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