Is there an abbreviation, an English or a Latin expression for "not true in general, but possibly although not necessarily true in some cases"?

I suppose such a phrase may be used frequently in law and philosophy.


  1. "Children from divorced marriages are given to fathers is not true in general."

But in some cases a father is given the children.

  1. "It is not true in general that a workday in the UK is from 8.00 to 16.00."

But some people in the UK work from 8.00 to 16.00.

  1. "In general a monkey cannot read and write."

Although there may exist a monkey that can read and write, but we do not know about such a monkey.

  • 1
    Can you provide an example of how you would like to use this in a sentence?
    – Dane
    Jan 8, 2015 at 19:08
  • @Dane Examples provided. Jan 8, 2015 at 22:50

4 Answers 4


In classical logic, this falls under the "sometimes true" category. Classical logic divides statements into "all are," "some are," "some are not," and "none are." The proportion is not terribly important (99% and 19% are both "some").

I do not know of a single word or an abbreviation that fits your scenario. Following Brian Hitchcock's comment on another answer, "rarely if ever" is the phrase that best describes the truth of such statements. "Rarely" communicates that the statement is not true in general, and "if ever" communicates that it is not necessarily true at all.

  • "Children from divorced marriages are rarely, if ever, given to fathers."
  • "A workday in the UK is rarely, if ever, from 8.00 to 16.00."
  • "A monkey is rarely, if ever, able to read and write."

Of course, there are more precise or nuanced ways to communicate these ideas. Your question leads me to believe that you are looking for a word to use in an artificially constrained context, such as a column in a spreadsheet. As such, the real answer to your question is, "No."


Infrequently, occasionally, sporadically


One common way to express the idea that a result is highly unusual and that its occurrence or existence doesn't undercut the greater frequency and general validity of the (contrary) usual result is to call the unusual result "the exception that proves the rule."

Here is the entry for that expression in Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (1997):

exception that proves the rule, the An instance that does not obey a rule shows that the rule exists. For example, John's much shorter than average but excels at basketball—the exception proves the rule. This seemingly paradoxical phrase is the converse of the older idea that every rule has an exception. [Mid-1600s]

The idea here, I think, is that by characterizing something as an exception, we implicitly acknowledge that a contrary rule exists. Still, as proofs go, this one isn't especially rigorous.

  • I think "Prove" here means "test", rather than "establish the truth of". Jan 12, 2015 at 19:59
  • The idea that proves means "puts to the proof" (or "tests") is interesting. Undoubtedly, an exception to a rule challenges that rule; but if a single exception utterly overthrew a rule, it would render the rule nugatory. I was taught the "i before e rule" as follows: "i before e except after c or when sounded as 'ay' as in neighbor or weigh." The word seize might be cited as "the exception that proves the rule"; but does that mean that it disproves the rule, or merely tests it, or stands as one of the few instances not involving prefixes where the otherwise valid rule fails to apply?
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 12, 2015 at 20:20

I think that you are describing what, for philosophical purposes, are sometimes termed "contingent truths" (in contradistinction from "necessary truths").

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