I need a word to describe the arrangement of mammalian teeth, which is strictly speaking bilateral, but can also be thought of as having four quasi-homologous quadrants. "Quadrilateral" doesn't seem to be used this way by dentists according to a quick Google search, although they do use the word "quadrant."

Thanks to the __ nature of dentition, we can have up to four experimental groups per animal.

  • 4
    quadripartite Dec 14, 2013 at 15:18
  • Yeah, I think Edwin nailed it. Note that this allows for different kinds of symmetry -- bilateral and vertical -- which is crucial for dentition -- while still basically referring to fourness and partness. Dec 14, 2013 at 16:10
  • @EdwinAshworth Thank you! As a complete newbie, I don't have the privilege to vote for you yet, but I wish I could, many times.
    – bongbang
    Dec 15, 2013 at 22:21
  • Although it's somewhat less common than quadripartite, it seems to me tetrapartite is just as good. Dec 16, 2013 at 18:46
  • "tetrahedral" -- a solid with 4 sides all the same.
    – Greg Lee
    Jul 10, 2015 at 23:12

2 Answers 2


The proper answer, I believe, was provided by Edwin Ashworth in the comments: quadripartite. Since he has not posted this as an answer though, I am providing it here to allow for an accepted answer (especially given that the OP seems unable to upvote comments without further reputation)


consisting of or divided into four parts

An alternative, provided by FumbleFingers was tetrapartite, which is an equivalent construction; but does not seem to have as many dictionaries to support it.

  • Personally I think John's comment re bilateral/vertical symmetry is central to OP's intended sense. I don't really understand why bilateral symmetry is used to mean "one-way symmetry" (one of the two contradictory meanings of bisymmetric). But personally I'd be more likely to say mammalian dentition often exhibits two-way symmetry (though obviously not always, when you consider things like beavers and walruses! :) Dec 16, 2013 at 21:59
  • Mammalian teeth are typically only bilaterally symmetrical. The top and bottom aren't symmetric (this is true for most mammals, including dogs, cats, horses, humans, etc). The OP specifies they are quasi-homogoneous - similar but not actually symmetric. In his example sentence, I'd likely say that "Thanks to the quadripartite quasi-homogoneous nature of dentition, we can have up to four experimental groups per animal". I feel that trying to imply symmetry is not truly the point; only that the four quadrants are similar ENOUGH for multiple test samples per animal.
    – Doc
    Dec 16, 2013 at 22:13
  • Quasi-quadri-symmetry? :) Personally I see homogoneous as being more concerned with things made of the same stuff throughout, evenly-mixed, rather than similar in shape. Dec 16, 2013 at 22:15
  • lol. I see your point though. Perhaps a question should be asked tagged with one-word-request for "nearly symmetrical" or some such.
    – Doc
    Dec 16, 2013 at 22:39
  • To be fair, OP used quasi-homologous. I'm only really familiar with homologous in the sense of "similar in many ways by virtue of origin". That's as distinct from analogous - "similar in some specific aspect of current interest, but usually not relating to origin". And I have just discovered that "repeated" biological structures (fern fronds, vertebrae, etc.) are sometimes referenced using the term. Dec 16, 2013 at 23:01

Quadrangular could be used for four-sided:

Female teeth are considered more rounded and male teeth more quadrangular

In the example above though, it's describing the shape of the tooth rather than distribution of teeth.

I don't really know enough about dentistry to say if it's suitable, but just another option to complement Edwin's quadripartite, seeing as you asked for four-sided also.

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