This is somewhat similar to this question, but a little different.

Essentially I'm trying to find a single term that describes something as being "built upon the foundation of something else", where that "something else" would be labeled foundational. However almost any word I can think of or can find on thesaurus.com has the baggage of also implying that the non-foundational item is somehow inferior, secondary, or minor.

In fact, in the situation where I'm wanting to use this word, the non-foundational items would, in some ways, be more central and important than the foundational items. (Of course, that said, without the foundational items, the non-foundational ones would not exist.) In my specific case, the non-foundational items are in some ways more the actual goal, focus, and object of the project, although it's a bit hard to say that either set is more or less important than the other set.

So what is a term that means "built upon a foundation", but that has zero baggage associated with it? In the question I linked to above, the same thing was being asked for a word that means "secondary", but in this case, neither set is secondary at all; they're both primary in their own ways.

One caveat though is that the term needs to be able to work well on its own, without being used as part of a larger grammatical construct. It should be easy to take this term and use it, by itself, as a label on a diagram. (This question came up because of a diagram.)

  • 2
    Founded, rooted, based, extended from, built on, leveraging, ...
    – Jim
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 20:25
  • Generally speaking, any building that's not built on a foundation is apt to be unstable and inferior.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 1:52
  • It's interesting but seems a vexed question. How can something be based on, dependent on, spring from or have it as a foundation without being in some way dependent on it. It is the immovable object and the irresistible force again.
    – Elliot
    Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 3:14
  • 1
    I would suggest perfected or evolutionary (perhaps evolved), but it's not clear if that's exactly the type of thing that's being looked for. The question is lacking clarity. Please provide an actual example with a sentence into which the word would fit. Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 16:23
  • expansion modules
    – tblue
    Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 0:34

3 Answers 3


Perhaps the non-foundational item advances, enhances, or augments the foundational item that inspired it.

  • You should include dictionary definitions (with references) for each of your chosen words. Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 5:29

The word you are looking for, perhaps, is the word paradigm. Before jumping to a conclusion about the word's inaptness, think about what a paradigm is.

A paradigm is "a set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline." in many ways, to the knowledge and discoveries which preceded it. Call them the foundation. For example, until Copernicus came along to challenge the then-popular "scientific" theory of his day, geocentrism, astronomers were not complete dummkopfs. Copernicus's contemporary astronomers and astronomers from previous generations laid the foundation for him. Copernicus "simply" took the opportunity to build his new paradigm on the foundation of what he could salvage from the old formulations, theories, and explanations.

Keep in mind, a new paradigm does not emerge from a vacuum. As important as the revolution in thinking it introduces is, previous researchers provided what to them seemed at the time to be reasonable explanations. They did not, for example, suggest that the Earth's moon is made of cheese, or that Saturn's rings are made of gold dust which the tooth fairy provided.

Do not think I believe that science is going to develop someday the cure for death. You know, the quaint belief that science is going to provide the cure to every seemingly intractable disease and mental illness which plagues humankind, after which the world will turn into heaven on earth. As "Émile Coué, the French psychologist, was fond of saying, “Every day in every way things are getting better and better”.

It's a nice affirmation, I suppose, but in the world I inhabit, one incontrovertible fact remains: In spite of how much better things get, sooner or later we are all going to die. We remain thankful, however, that God continues to give scientists and researchers, especially in the healing arts, insights which may turn out to be paradigmatic but which are also beholden to the work of previous generations.


How about development (Merriam-Webster):

Development: the act, process, or result of developing

For example, if you are interested in the development of new ideas, you will, generally speaking, be developing those new ideas based upon some foundational ideas or concepts -- that is, there will always be a larger context for the new ideas. The advantage of development is that it puts the emphasis not on what's foundational, but on what's new. Putting what's foundational in the background results in minimal baggage.

In your question, you note, "In my specific case, the non-foundational items are in some ways more the actual goal, focus, and object of the project, although it's a bit hard to say that either set is more or less important than the other set." I couldn't agree more. If you're building a house for example, yes, you need a foundation, but having a house, not a foundation, is the goal. I also agree with the second clause -- the foundation and the structure developed upon the foundation are equally important in the sense that it wouldn't do you much good to have one without the other.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.