Do you like the use use of propensity when talking about

  • tumors*
  • seizures (as a result of a drug's side effect)
  • companies
  • countries

Or is it used only for people?

*Example: Certainly we can't say whether the GMO maize increased the propensity for tumors.

So far I have always used propensity when talking about people's tendency; habitual tendencies.

  • A propensity is a natural tendency to do something. It may apply to people, animals but also countries. Tumours also may show a propensity : books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user66974
    Aug 30, 2016 at 20:13
  • Would you kindly give me an example sentence of tumor and propensity?
    – mscola1975
    Aug 30, 2016 at 20:15
  • 1
    See examples here: google.it/…
    – user66974
    Aug 30, 2016 at 20:19
  • 1
    Would a single source convince you? In this safety manual for a chainsaw, we read these words on page 12: "When you are holding the saw with only one hand on the handle like in the picture, the saw has a propensity to tip toward the leg." (emphasis added).
    – cobaltduck
    Aug 30, 2016 at 20:39
  • 1
    It can be fun to treat inanimate objects as though they had a will of their own. My umbrella has an unfortunate propensity to open spontaneously. (I made that up. I'm not sure I currently own an umbrella.) In my example, propensity = tendency. Of your list, the one I would have to work pretty hard to use as a subject for propensity is "seizures", but I guess it can be done. E.g. "in such and so conditions, my seizures have a propensity to ruin an otherwise agreeable afternoon." Aug 31, 2016 at 0:51

1 Answer 1


I would use it in all those cases - see the following definition from the Oxford Companion to Philosophy:


A propensity is a probabilistic disposition of an object or person to behave in a certain way—for example, the disposition of a radium atom to undergo radioactive decay in a given time-period with a certain degree of chance. Propensities are more firmly linked to behaviour than mere tendencies are, because the mere tendencies of an object may be counteracted by the contrary tendencies of other objects.

Prof. E. J. Lowe

This suggests it is not confined to people but includes objects as well.

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