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What is an adjective that means simultaneously same and different?

Sample sentence:

The brothers were [WORD]: sometimes they seemed like the same person, at other times they didn’t even seem like brothers.

Searches I’ve done:

  • same
  • Congruent
  • Different
  • similar
  • Dissimilar

If there are no such adjectives, are there any compound words that could serve instead? Ideally something that isn’t too long, but really stresses the superposition of similar and different.

This request is not like Word for “not having a definite form”? as the forms are known and unchanging. The form of the brothers is a highly-overlapping venn diagram: the intersecting section is the known, unchanging "same", and the indepedent sections are the "different" or "dissimilar". The key part of this sought-after word is that it identifies that what it describes have two known and unchanging opposite sets of traits (opposite on an arbitrary axis).

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    Ambivalent. – Decapitated Soul Jul 13 '20 at 12:29
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    You could say that the brothers are chameleonic. This fits the quotation better than the question title. – Weather Vane Jul 13 '20 at 12:29
  • It's not quite the same question, but enigmatic might work well here. – Weather Vane Jul 13 '20 at 12:34
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    There is no such word. None of the suggestions in the comments above, or the answers below, mean anything close to what you want. – TonyK Jul 13 '20 at 18:21
  • You can consider mirror image, with some literary license. – jxh Jul 14 '20 at 7:49
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This depends on context. While I don't believe there is a perfect single word for this, this is certainly a common and generally recognized concept. Most famously, A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, 
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, 
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, 
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, 
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, 
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way

The above quote is describing the same thing as a multitude of contradictory (to the point of being exact opposite) statements. The author of the book put the thing in juxtaposition with itself. Usually, one would juxtapose two (or more) different things beside each other to compare/contrast them, but in this case the author is doing a self-juxtaposition.

If your context is the same as the quote, one could describe the thing as being in a state of superposition, referring to a state of Quantum Superposition wherein a thing is both states of a binary relationship (both alive and dead) at the same time.

In math, namely geometry, to describe things that are almost the same but not exact, you would say they are similar but not congruent (a 5in. x 5in. square is similar to a 6in. x 6in. square, but not congruent).

A common proverb you could use to describe them could be different sides of the same coin, meaning that both parties are the same thing, just from a different angle.

And I feel that an oxymoron comes close to matching with your description, but doesn't quite get there.

Since there unfortunately isn't a perfect single word for this phenomena I would think the best way to go about describing it would be to explain it in a few words:

"The brothers were arbitrarily either on the same or different side of the same coin: sometimes they seemed like the same person, at other times they didn’t even seem like brothers."

"The brother's personalities were in a state of superposition: sometimes they seemed like the same person, at other times they didn’t even seem like brothers."

Personally, as a phrase, I like "same, yet opposite."

"The brother's were the same, yet opposite: sometimes they seemed like the same person, at other times they didn’t even seem like brothers."

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    I'm marking this answer as accepted as I think it comes closest to answering my original ask: - there is no such word - the closest one-word approximation is "superposition" - the best phrase is "the same, yet opposite" - the perfect imaginary word would be a union of superposition and oxymoron. thank you! – LinenIsGreat Jul 14 '20 at 12:33
  • I just came across vicissitude. Specifically, the literary meaning seems to come pretty close to what I asked for, with the exception of "being simultaneous" – LinenIsGreat Dec 20 '20 at 13:05
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If I follow the title of the question, this is asking about having multiple qualities at the same time, not necessarily about something that actually changes from one thing to another over time. (Although it might appear so to an observer.)

A word to describe something like this is multifaceted:

[Merriam-Webster]
: having many facets (see FACET sense 1) or aspects
// a multifaceted approach to health care

facet
1 : any of the definable aspects that make up a subject (as of contemplation) or an object (as of consideration)
    // Each facet of the problem requires careful attention.

It could be used in the example sentence in the following way:

The brothers were multifaceted: sometimes they seemed like the same person, at other times they didn’t even seem like brothers.

However, it would be more natural to put the emphasis on something like their personalities in this context:

The brothers had multifaceted personalities: sometimes they seemed like the same person, at other times they didn’t even seem like brothers.

Using this word, it doesn't mean that their personalities as a whole change, but that a particular aspect will be more apparent than another at any given time.

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How about semi-similar or semisimilar? From M-W:

semi-: to some extent : partly : incompletely

similar: having characteristics in common

Semi-similar (or semisimilar) implies simultaneous similarity and dissimilarity. Your example:

The brothers were [only] semi-similar (or semisimilar): sometimes they seemed like the same person, at other times they didn’t even seem like brothers.

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