Singularity (Definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary)

[ad. F. singularité (12th c.), or late L. singulritas, f. singulris SINGULAR: see -ITY.]

I.1. Singleness of aim or purpose. Obs. rare.

a1340 HAMPOLE Psalter iv. 10 ai perisch at sekis many thyngs, and syngularite is halden in halymen, for ai sett all aire hert to luf anly a god. 1640 in Rushw. Hist. Coll. III. (1692) I. 130 Is there in us that which God requires, Unity, Purity, and singularity of heart?

2. A single or separate thing or entity; a unit. c1374 CHAUCER Boeth. V. met. iii. (1868) 160 Whan e soule..see..god, an knowe it to-gidre e somme and e singularites, at is to seyn, e principles and eueryche by hym self. 1548 GESTE Pr. Masse 139 'Wee' importeth a multitude and not a singularitee. 1606 L. BRYSKETT Civil Life 162 (As Aristotle sayth) the knowledge of vniuersalities springeth from singularities. 1682 SIR T. BROWNE Chr. Mor. (1756) 120 Persons of short times..know not singularities enough to raise axioms of this world. 1708 Brit. Apollo No. 40. 1/2 Tho it be an Usual thing in the Hebrew..for a Plural Word to denote a Singularity.

3. The quality or fact of being one in number or kind; singleness, oneness. Now rare. 1583 STUBBES Anat. Abus. II. (1882) 80 The singularitie of one man may easilie be abused. 1593 BILSON Govt. Christ's Ch. 245 The singularitie of one Pastour over each flocke is commanded. 1608 HEYWOOD Lucrece II. ii, Barren Princes Breed danger in their singularitie. 1671 J. FLAVEL Fount of Life viii. 20 He is described by the Singularity of his Mediation, One Mediator, and but one. 1711 G. HICKES Two Treat. Chr. Priesth. (1847) II. 390 The unity of each Church resteth on the singularity of the pastor. 1713 ARBUTHNOT John Bull II. xx, Why may not John Bull be Us..? I hope John Bull is no more confined to Singularity than Nic. Frog. 1806 Phil. Trans. XCVI. 225 The projectile motions of the planets..are all decidedly in favour of a marked singularity of direction. 1850 ROBERTSON Serm. Ser. III. xi. (1853) 132 Not merely the singularity in the number of God's Being.

II. 4.a. The fact or condition of being alone or apart from others; solitariness. Obs. rare. 1398 TREVISA Barth. De P.R. VI. xxiii. (1495) 212 Men vsyd to ete togyders in open place, leest syngularite [Bodl. MS. singulerite] schuld brede lechery. 1607 TOPSELL Four-f. Beasts (1658) 189 Goats love singularity, and may well be called Schismaticks among Cattel, and therefore they thrive best lying together in small numbers.

b. A solitary instance. 1814 J. ADAMS Wks. (1856) X. 106 A friendship of forty years, I have found a rarity, though not a singularity.

5.a. Private or personal profit or gain. Obs. 1426 LYDG. De Guil. Pilgr. 23661 Wherfore the Spon that thou hast seyn ys callede 'Syngularyte', thyng to possede in propurte. 1436 Pol. Poems (Rolls) II. 190 But covetyse and singularite Of one [v.r. owne] profite..Hathe done us harme. c1450 BURGH Secrees 2223 Comende that Officeer..As hym that loueth moore prosperite, vnyversal of thy Regioun Than pryvat avayl to his singularyte.

b. Desire to be specially favoured. Obs.1 c1491 Chast. Goddes Chyld. x. 26 Some of thyse men by a grete singularytee desire of god some specyalle yefte.

6. Distinction due to, or involving, some superior quality; special excellence or goodness. Obs. c1450 in Aungier Syon (1840) 378 No singularite of metes and drynkes be had in the freytour. 1538 STARKEY England II. i. 153 Dylygently to attayne in al artys and crafte gret syngularyte. 1558 WARDE tr. Alexis' Secr. (1568) 62b, In lyke maner may you dresse and trymme Peches and other fruites: a thing of great singularitie. 1620 E. BLOUNT Horę Subs. 358 There were conioyned all singularities together, best workmen, best wits,..and so in euery kinde Superlatiue. 1632 LITHGOW Trav. x. 482 The kindnesses of whom..argued in them a greater singularitie of kindnesse and compassion.

7. a. The fact or quality of differing or dissenting from others or from what is generally accepted, esp. in thought or religion; personal, individual, or independent action, judgement, etc., esp. in order to render one's self conspicuous or to attract attention or notice. (Common from 1590 to 1700.) 1502 Ord. Crysten Men (W. de W. 1506) IV. xxx, Syngularyte, as not to vouchesaufe to do as done other. a1568 R. ASCHAM Scholem. II. (Arb.) 147 This mislikyng of Ryming beginneth not now of any newfangle singularitie. 1593 G. HARVEY New Letter B, Excellency hath in all ages affected singularity. 1601 CORNWALLIS Ess. II. i, It comes too neere singularitie, and a desire to be noted. 1665 BOYLE Occas. Refl. (1848) 359 The Day will come, when those that despise his Singularity, will envy his Happiness. 1715 BENTLEY Serm. x. 369 He that zealously vends his Novelties, what is he but a Trader for the fame of Singularity? 1753-4 RICHARDSON Grandison VI. xxix. 181 Singularity is usually the indication of something wrong in judgment. 1814 CARY Dante, Par. XXIX. 92 So much the restless eagerness to shine, And love of singularity, prevail. 1887 LOWELL Democracy 10 That conceit of singularity which is the natural recoil from our uneasy consciousness of being commonplace.

b. Const. of (opinion, etc.). 1617 MORYSON Itin. II. 114 Doctor Latwar,..affecting some singularitie of forwardnesse, more then his place required,..was mortally wounded. 1622 in Fortescue Papers (Camden) 184, I neaver affected singularity of opinion either in myself or any other man. 1771 Ann. Reg. II. 166 Tacitus's only aim seems to have been singularity of expression. 1779 Mirror No. 19, That singularity of opinion, which is the natural consequence of his want of opportunities of comparing his own ideas with those of others. 1822 HAZLITT Table-T. Ser. II. xvi. (1869) 327 Avoid singularity of opinion as well as of every thing else.

c. Dissent or separation from (something). Obs. 1680 BAXTER Answ. Stillingfl. vi. 15 Is our Consent with the Universal Church, or your Singularity from it, liker to Schism or Separation? 1681 Whole Duty Nations 12 These Holy Men['s]..Singularity from Sin and False Worship.

8. a. Individual character or property; individuality; distinctiveness. 1583 STUBBES Anat. Abus. II. (1882) 11 There is a certaine singularitie, interest, and proprietie in euerie thing. 1613 PURCHAS Pilgrimage (1614) 491 Some particulars..may be said touching some of them in other places, according to the singularitie of each Nation in this so manifolde a profession. 1648 J. BEAUMONT Psyche XXI. lii, That Singularity which seemeth so Close girt to every Individual Creature. 1778 F. BURNEY Evelina I, This without ornament, elegance, or any sort of singularity, and merely to be marked by its length. 1836-7 SIR W. HAMILTON Metaph. xxviii. (1859) II. 169 All the special determinations which give it [a triangle]..singularity or individuality.

b. The fact or condition of departing or deviating from what is customary, usual, or normal; peculiarity, eccentricity, oddity, strangeness. 1768 STERNE Sent. Journ., Passport, The Count smiled at the singularity of the introduction. 1794 S. WILLIAMS Vermont 150 The manners and customs of the Indians are marked with a singularity peculiar to the savage. 1815 W. H. IRELAND Scribbleomania 122 note, The following anecdote, which, for its singularity, surpasses even the attempts of Chatterton. 1821 CRAIG Lect. Drawing, etc. v. 303 There is another species of rock which I shall mention, on account of its singularity. 1830 D'ISRAELI Chas. I. III. iv. 56 The singularity of his manners had attracted as much notice as his eminence at the bar.

c. A special or particular kind of (something). 1776 ADAM SMITH W.N. I. vii. (1869) I. 63 Some natural productions require such a singularity of soil and situation, that [etc.].

9. With a and pl.a. An instance of individual departure from common ideas or practice. 1570 GRINDAL Let. in Rem. (Parker Soc.) 305 He hath a busy head, stuffed full of Singularities. 1613 PURCHAS Pilgrimage II. ix. (1614) 154 When afterwards in a singularitie he had gone aside into a Caue, and there mewed vp himselfe. 1692 DRYDEN St. Euremont's Ess. 98 He fear'd the singularities which came from a false Spirit. Ibid. 336, I pardon our religious Men the sad Singularity of eating nothing but Herbs. 1710 STEELE Tatler No. 166 1 The World is so overgrown with Singularities in Behaviour, and Method of Living. 1790 PALEY Horę Paul. i. 7 Numerous expressions and singularities of style. 1849 MISS MULOCK Ogilvies 14 Even slight singularities of dressusually puerile and contemptible affectations. 1884 L'pool Mercury 22 Oct. 5/4 The singularities of his character and the misfortunes of his life.

b. A distinctive, noteworthy, or curious thing; esp. pl., notable features or objects; the sights (of a place). 1570-6 LAMBARDE Peramb. Kent (1826) 131 Since Douer is not far off let us make unto it and unfold the singularities of the same. 1593 MUNDAY Def. Contraries 15 Countrey houses..beset with cleere fountaines, Vineyardes, Meadowes,..and other singularities. 1632 LITHGOW Trav. I. 15 Many haue wrote of the singularities of old Rome. 1653 H. COGAN tr. Pinto's Voy. lvii. 225 When we had well observed the singularities of this Temple. 1760 Ann. Reg., Chron. 78 Numbers are daily crouding from this view these singularities [petrified human bodies]. 1801 STRUTT Sports & Past. IV. ii. 275 One of them [chess-boards], a perfect singularity, is of circular form. 1808 BENTHAM Scotch Reform 2 But as Africa of old was noted for physical, so have the British islands been in modern times for psychological singularities.

transf. 1599 B. JONSON Cynthia's Rev. IV. v, Al the choisest singularities of the court were vp in pantofles.

c. A peculiar, exceptional, or unusual feature or characteristic. 1663 J. SPENCER Prodigies (1665) 382 There is a singularity therein in regard of the nature of it. 1796 WITHERING Brit. Pl. (ed. 3) I. 121 From these singularities of structure, it is probable that the generation of these plants is effected in some mode not yet understood. 1817 MILL Brit. India II. iv. I. 167 The trials by ordeal..have been thought a mighty singularity in the institutions of our Gothic ancestors. 1822-7 GOOD Study Med. (1829) III. 227, I have..seen several of these singularities, and especially the renewal of the sight and hearing. 1852 CAYLEY Math. Papers II. 28 On the singularities of curves. 1883 WALLEM Fish Supply Norway 22 It is a singularity of the export..of cured fish that [etc.].

d. Math. A point at which a function takes an infinite value. 1893 A. R. FORSYTH Theory of Functions xxi. 606 All the essential singularities of a discontinuous group lie on the axis of a when the group is real. 1939 [see SCHWARZSCHILD 2]. 1959 Listener 27 Aug. 320/1 At the start of the expansion certain quantities in our differential equations become infinite. This frequently happens with differential equations, and when it does the equation is said to contain a mathematical singularity. 1977 Sci. Amer. July 126/3 Gauss did much more with complex numbers. In 1811 he discovered what is now called Cauchy's theorem: The integral of a complex analytical function around a closed curve that encloses no singularities is zero.

e. Astr. A region in space-time at which matter is infinitely dense. 1965 Physical Rev. Lett. XIV. 58/1 An exterior observer will always see matter outside r = 2m, the collapse through r = 2m to the singularity at r = 0 being invisible to him. 1972 Nature 21 Apr. 378/2 In the physical world..we may take the phrase 'space-time singularity' to mean a region in which space and time have become so locally distorted that the present laws of physics are no longer applicable. 1979 Jrnl. R. Soc. Arts CXXVII. 579/1 A central 'singularity' where tidal forces (the difference between the gravitational acceleration of his head and his feet) would become infinite, and he would be crushed out of existence.

Source: OED (1989)

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