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Is there a single word for: something that has no beginning or without a beginning

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  • 6
    Assuming you wish to exclude non-existent: most things that are considered not to have a beginning are probably also considered not to have an end either (but this is largely philosophy or dogma). Hence 'eternal' etc work. Jul 1, 2018 at 11:30
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    Beginingless is a good one. In the answer below I also saw unbegun that one also seems ok. Jul 1, 2018 at 11:50
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    'Unbegun' means 'still waiting for someone to start it'. 'The dam is unbegun' and 'The dam is as yet unbegun' both mean there isn't a dam. Jul 1, 2018 at 12:02
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    Schubert wrote an "Unfinished Symphony", which has two movements instead of the usual four. P.D.Q. Bach also wrote a two-movement symphony (with movements 3 and 4 only) that is known as his "Unbegun Symphony".
    – tautophile
    Jul 2, 2018 at 1:21
  • @Bdy Can I ask what you are trying to describe in this way. Is it something which is known now, but hasn't started, it just is? Is it something which hasn't started, so it isn't a thing?
    – AJFaraday
    Jul 2, 2018 at 13:13

10 Answers 10

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beginningless

Collins

having no beginning

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  • In spite of the word being uncommon, Wiktionary gives two senses for 'beginningless', the second of which is the one you mean. Jul 1, 2018 at 12:00
  • 9
    Shouldn't that be "eginningless"?
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 1, 2018 at 12:31
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    @HotLicks- I found it amusing that Collins shows the Trends for 'beginningless' and the default scope is "Since Exist"
    – Jim
    Jul 1, 2018 at 18:39
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Good question. In traditional English theology, the closest concept is eternal, which also implies endlessness. Atemporal implies not existing in time at all. Ageless or timeless can literally mean having no age, but more often imply not showing the effects of time. Words such as primordial traditionally carry the implication of first-created, but in a context that implies anything is eternally ancient, it would mean that instead. I would suggest that immemorial comes closest.

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  • Some sources will give you a very specific date for time immemorial: 1189-07-06. So it does not necessarily imply without a beginning.
    – kasperd
    Jul 1, 2018 at 22:39
  • @kasperd The literal definition is “beyond remembering,” but many words have more than one meaning. For certain purposes in English law, I suppose that is the earliest date for which records were kept, but even then, it means, older than that, not that exact date.
    – Davislor
    Jul 1, 2018 at 22:42
  • These are a couple of sources which will give you a specific date for time immemorial: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_immemorial youtube.com/watch?v=vzJ9_6kDrQE
    – kasperd
    Jul 1, 2018 at 22:51
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    @kasperd Even in that context, “time immemorial” does not have a beginning and that is not the date of “time immemorial” itself. That’s the earliest date for which complete-enough records are extant, and “since time immemorial” means older than that.
    – Davislor
    Jul 1, 2018 at 23:15
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    Still it doesn't imply without beginning just that nobody remembers when it began.
    – kasperd
    Jul 1, 2018 at 23:37
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Consider the term unbegotten:

not created; having no beginning; eternal

But this is a word that you're most likely to encounter only in theology. It literally means not brought into existence by the process of sexual reproduction.

Another good word from theology that I can recommend would be uncaused:

not brought into existence by any cause

In the Muslim and Christian religions as well as in Judaism, God is regarded as the uncaused cause of everything that exists. That is, God is the cause of absolutely everything, but he himself was never created which implies that he has no beginning.

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Well, 'beginningless' is an obvious phrasing but, given that such a thing doesn't exist outside of thought experiments, it's worth mentioning that the standard philosophical term of art for what you're discussing is the

prime mover, n.

1. A person who instigates or originates something; spec. G-d regarded as the motive force of the universe...

It and 'first mover' are calques of the Latin phrase 'primum mobile' &c. (which is also used in English), translating Arabic al-muḥarrik al-awwal or امحرك الأوّل (which isn't), translating Aristotle's Greek τὸ πρῶτον κινῆσαν (tò prôton kinêsan).

Following Aristotlean logic, some form of self-existent, uncreated G-d was assumed to have been necessary to get the rest of creation moving in order to avoid an infinite regress of causation. As Davislor already mentioned, such a G-d was less eternal than atemporal. If there was any cause for our universe before the Big Bang, it would likewise exist outside the time known within our universe which modern physics suggests came into existence with space.

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Sourceless? I would say that in the literal meaning it would imply that the object had no source, but may possibly have an end?

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'Eternal' fits the bill but isn’t as poetic as ‘anadi' or 'anaadi’, Hindi for 'without beginning, without end'.

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  • It can't be eternal. Even though something may not have a beginning, it's still possible that it has an end . . . Jul 1, 2018 at 17:08
  • There’s a Hebrew hymn that uses the phrase, “*B'li reshit, b'li tachlit,” but when an Israeli friend of the family came to my brother’s bar mitzvah, he couldn’t help laughing afterwards. In modern Hebrew, that still means, “Without a beginning, without an end,” but the connotation is “without a purpose” (And is closely related to the word for end as a body part—but Exodus 33:23 reveals that.)
    – Davislor
    Jul 1, 2018 at 17:11
  • @Jason Bassford: It's likewise possible for something to be eternal if it has a beginning, but no end. (In the sense that the set of positive integers is infinite.) E.g. "eternal youth", or "eternal life" in Christian theology (as far as I understand it, anyway).
    – jamesqf
    Jul 1, 2018 at 17:37
  • @jamesqf Yes, and I mispoke. Something without a beginning may be eternal, but not necessarily (depending on how you look at it). And vice-versa. Jul 1, 2018 at 17:59
  • @JasonBassford something may not have a beginning, it's still possible that it has an end Are you sure? Can you name even one such thing?
    – Will
    Jul 2, 2018 at 1:58
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steady-state

While in most situations I'd go with the already-suggested eternal, in the very specific case where your question covers the entire universe, you could fall back to the old theory, no longer accepted, of a steady-state universe.

To vastly oversimplify, under the steady-state hypothesis the universe has always existed in much the same condition it has now, with no beginning; evidence of expansion is due to matter coming into existence from random fluctuations in, more or less, nothingness.

You can read more at Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steady_State_theory

Even if you are not talking about the entire universe, a steady-state equilibrium where certain conditions are unchanging over a long period of time may be sufficient for your purposes.

Merriam-Webster defines it as:

a state or condition of a system or process (such as one of the energy states of an atom) that does not change in time; broadly: a condition that changes only negligibly over a specified time

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You could consider unstarted and synonyms unbegun (I am sure I never said that) or uncommenced. The world of mathematics and geometry offer the torus or Möbius strip as objects which cannot be described as having a beginning.

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    These default to 'yet to be started'. Jul 1, 2018 at 11:46
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    In mathematics, I think I would call those “unbounded.”
    – Davislor
    Jul 1, 2018 at 17:21
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"de novo" - often used in genomics, its roots are in Latin meaning "from nothing"

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    Actually, de novo literally means "from new" and not "from nothing". It would be the phrase ex nihilo that means "from nothing". Jul 2, 2018 at 20:26
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Headless - Used in IT sciences

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  • And for decapitated chickens too.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 3, 2018 at 8:38
  • Be careful, though: the term "headless" is also used to refer to a workstation without a monitor, intended to be used only via the network. (This usage is no longer common as cloud computing and other forms of virtualization become more prevalent.)
    – arp
    Jul 3, 2018 at 8:57

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