I am looking for a word I came across but forgot to note down. It describes that multiple pathways can lead to the same outcome — not in terms of physical paths but rather in terms of an abstract state being reached.

The word is academic English and to me it seemed to originate from Latin (I think something with equi...). I have been unsuccessfully searching for it for a while now.

I am not trying to portray the fact that all pathways have the same outcome. Rather, we see one outcome and there might be different pathways leading to it (i.e. looking from the perspective of the outcome back — trying to explain that it can have different pathways). Refer to this academic paper — just read the abstract — to get an idea.

  • Possibly a Duplicate of this english.stackexchange.com/questions/469562/… but maybe all roads lead to rome or Omnes viae Romam ducunt – Smock Mar 25 at 15:58
  • Hey, I'm aware of the mentioned idiomatic expressions and they are not what I am looking for, so this is not a duplicate. :) Also, the idea I am trying to convey is different (see edit). – Ivo Mar 25 at 16:10
  • Ah i see, so more of a case that there are multiple distinct vectors that lead to a specific distinct outcome (not not necessarily all paths, and that other paths (or not following these paths) do not arrive here) – Smock Mar 25 at 16:20
  • 1
    Tagged [single-word-requests]. If you also want multiple-word, please edit accordingly. – smci Mar 26 at 1:18
  • This got me thinking 'idempotency' but that's different. – smci Mar 26 at 1:20

Perhaps equifinality? From Wikipedia,

Equifinality is the principle that in open systems a given end state can be reached by many potential means. Also meaning that a goal can be reached by many ways.

And from Merriam-Webster:

the property of allowing or having the same effect or result from different events

  • 2
    Another term is "path independent". – Acccumulation Mar 25 at 21:50

While 'equifinality' seems to be the term you were looking for, I thought I'd mention an adjective that's sometimes used to express the same idea: convergent.

From Merriam-Webster:

  1. tending to move toward one point or to approach each other (convergent lines)
  2. exhibiting convergence in form, function, or development (convergent evolution)
    1. of an improper integral : having a value that is a real number
    2. characterized by having the nth term or the sum of the first n terms approach a finite limit

The usage in convergent lines (first meaning) clearly matches the idea that multiple lines (paths, if you will) can reach a common point, without implying that all lines will.

The second meaning is better exemplified in Wikipedia's description:

Convergent evolution is the independent evolution of similar features in species of different lineages. Convergent evolution creates analogous structures that have similar form or function but were not present in the last common ancestor of those groups. ... The recurrent evolution of flight is a classic example, as flying insects, birds, pterosaurs, and bats have independently evolved the useful capacity of flight. Functionally similar features that have arisen through convergent evolution are analogous, whereas homologous structures or traits have a common origin but can have dissimilar functions.

Different metaphorical paths can lead to the same outcome, e.g. flight. Interestingly, in this usage the eventually reached states don't have to be the exact same ones - only that they need to show analogous features or effects.

The third meaning is from mathematics, where it's not always clear that different paths exist. In most math-related cases it's probably better to think of convergent as a technical term. However, a clear example of multiple paths leading to the same number can be found in the convergence of random numbers. Most straightforwardly, if you repeatedly roll a fair die and calculate the average of all rolls, this will eventually converge to 3.5, no matter the order of the rolls.

For more examples see Wikipedia's disambiguation page for convergence. Do note that not all those terms necessarily mean that a common goal is reached, however.

  • Perhaps 'reconvergent'? – smci Mar 26 at 1:21

'reconvergent': Multiple paths may diverge, but ultimately they reconverge.

(You did qualify "not in terms of physical paths but rather in terms of an abstract state being reached", but I don't understand, can you give a specific for-instance? what is an abstract path to an abstract state like? I read your reference and I'm none the wiser. For the broader sense where there isn't any actual physical path, I would just say "equivalent" or "having the same effect")


"There's more than one way to skin a cat" isn't a single word, but it is an idiom with this meaning.

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