I have two mathematical sets that have no common elements.

In mathematical terms, these are called 'disjoint sets', and together they are called a 'partition'.

What common or well understood word or phrase could I use to explain what these are, when speaking to someone who doesn't know what a disjoint set or partition is?

Edit: I am looking for an alternative to the answer found in this question. I am looking for a reasonably common word/phrase to replace "disjoint". The other answer found in the linked question, "orthogonal", is much too obscure for my purpose.

  • A heterogeneous set of numbers?
    – user66974
    Sep 25, 2015 at 18:05
  • No, a single set can't be disjoint, so there's no such thing as a disjoint set (singular). Instead, any N sets (N > 1) can be disjoint sets (plural) if none of them have any members in common. If you don't want to use disjoint, you'll have to say "with no members in common" or the like; this is not a distinction English makes lexically. Sep 25, 2015 at 18:06
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    If this question is to be reopened changing the title might be a good idea too. Something like what else other than "disjoint" can we call... As it is now it really looks like a duplicate.
    – Jacinto
    Sep 26, 2015 at 21:28
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    @DanBron The way I see it is if a question has an answer accepted already, and the answer is massively upvoted, and it is the right answer, then it is unlikely anybody will make any additional suggestion (nobody has for 10 months). And even if I thought mutually exclusive a good option, which I think it is, I would still like to see whether people might come up with other ideas, which they may well do if the question is reopened as it is now.
    – Jacinto
    Sep 26, 2015 at 21:57
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    @Jacinto Can't argue with you except to say: that's the StackExchange model. Many people see it as a flaw (in many cases, myself included), but so far no one has come up with an idea which addresses it without introducing new, worse, drawbacks.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 26, 2015 at 21:59

2 Answers 2


Non-overlapping, all-encompassing sets.


"Two separate groups"

I would take the word "separate" to mean there are no common members, unless stated otherwise.

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