I did a search and it seems that "distinct" is sometimes used as a noun, but very rarely. Is distinct used as noun okay?

Is there a better noun for a group of entities all different from each other - a group of entities having each entity only equal to itself?

  • 1
    singularity, though that's physics, really. It can be metaphorically appropriated in some writing...
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 21:20
  • that's very good, actually. thank you very much :D post it as answer, i'll accept it if there are no better options!
    – Wes
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 21:41
  • also found: individualities (not even a word, probably?) individuals
    – Wes
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 21:49
  • 2
    @Wes In what context do you intend to use this word? In mathematics, a set is a well-defined collection of distinct objects. Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 22:33
  • 1
    not really a noun, but you could describe these entities as "discrete": not connected, not overlapping etc..
    – Sam Walls
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 3:30

5 Answers 5


This is simply a set

Set (wiki)

In mathematics, a set is a well-defined collection of distinct objects

As per your comment, you don't want to use set as a function in a program. However, it is perfectly valid to do so.

In programming - Oracle's Java documentation

A Set is a Collection that cannot contain duplicate elements.

You can end up with methods called getSet();

Alternatively, C# uses Distinct in LINQ - Items.Distinct();, but you might do getDistinctItems();, but not as a noun.

But a set really is the industry correct term for what you are describing.


Entities are inherently distinct.

As per the definition provided by the OED:


  1. A thing with distinct and independent existence.
    ‘Church and empire were fused in a single entity’

The adjective you're looking for is "distinct".

Again, as per the definition found in the OED:


  1. Recognizably different in nature from something else of a similar type.
    ‘there are two distinct types of sickle cell disease’


A list of distinct entities inherently means that no two objects in this list are completely equal to one another.
However, since the OED lists "entity" as inherently being distinct, means that you can consider "distinct entities" to be a pleonasm.

Following that logic, you should either call it a list of distinct objects or a list of entities. Both adequately describe what you are looking for.

But there's a catch...

The rest of this answer only applies to the field of programming. But I have a strong suspicion that that is the case for you. If it is not, then the previous conclusion is all you need to know.

A list of distinct items is a list where no two items are equal to eachother. You've already touched on this when you said

a group of entities having each entity only equal to itself.

However, in order to define whether two items are distinct or not, you must first define equality.

Take the following list of cars:

  • A blue BMW X1
  • A black BMW X5
  • A red BMW X5
  • A blue Mercedes CLA

It's impossible to give you a distinct list of items, if I don't know how you're observing equality.

  • There are three distinct colors in the list (blue, black, red)
  • There are two distinct makes in the list (Mercedes, BMW)
  • There are three distinct models in the list (BMW X1, BMW X5, Mercedes CLA)
  • There is one distinct mode of transportation in the list (a car)

Notice the recurring pattern:

[amount] distinct [marker for equality]

When you make a distinction based on color, you end up with distinct colors. When you make a distinction based on make, you end up with distinct makes. And so on...

Conclusion from a programming perspective

You should avoid using "entities", as it is too vague. You should use a noun that adequately describes how the distinction is made (= what is the distinction based on?)

If you're struggling to find a correct name for the distinction itself (e.g. you're considering an equality based on first name + birth year + number of children, the combination of which does not have an obvious name attached to it), then you are asking about something which is explicitly listed as off-topic for English.SE:

But please, don’t ask any questions about the following topics. They are out of scope for this site.

  • Naming, including naming programming variables/classes

The correct answer in a programming context is therefore to use the adjective "distinct", which is a term that is already well established in the field of programming.


A group of entities all different from one another?

"miscellany/miscellanea" or "assortment" come to mind.

  • miscellany or miscellanea (noun) - "a collection of various items, parts, or ingredients" TFD

  • assortment - "a collection or group of various things or sorts" TFD

The box from the attic contained a miscellany of old records, family photo albums, and long-forgotten love letters.

An unlikely assortment of rock stars and politicians attended the charity concert. CD

  • thanks but not sure about these. it seems the items' multiplicity is not explicitly defined.
    – Wes
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 6:54

The word "unique" can be used as a noun:

unique |yo͞oˈnēk| noun archaic – a unique person or thing.

However, if you want to describe a group of "unique"s, I would go with "variety".

variety |vəˈrīədē| noun (pl. varieties) 1– the quality or state of being different or diverse; the absence of uniformity, sameness, or monotony: it's the variety that makes my job so enjoyable.

  • (a variety of) a number or range of things of the same general class that are different or distinct in character or quality: the center offers a variety of leisure activities.

"Variety" here implies that all objects within the group are not repeated.


How about a population of individuals?

  • We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Please explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – NVZ
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 4:42

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