For my work, I cluster genes in a way that some genes can be in a cluster of size 10, and others in a cluster of 1, i.e. the gene is a singleton and has no other genes to cluster with. After that, I split the result into 2 groups. If a gene is a singleton, it can end up in either group. However, the genes in the cluster get assorted together. That is, clusters stay indivisible.

Is it correct to say "indivisible", or there's another concise way of expressing what I've described? For example, can I say that "clusters stay atomic"?

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    [Definition of cluster as it is used here] ... 'Clusters with more than a single gene are confined in this classification to set A.' Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 13:37
  • You're using metaphoric terminology as if it were concrete. You actually aren't physically touching genes and you aren't moving genes around; rather, as I understand, you determine categories in which to place iconic symbols of those genes. And then you do that activity some more and the symbols of one kind have some invariant property after the second determination, while the symbols of another kind don't. With a description that sketchy, it's really hard to come up with a specialized verb. Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 13:48
  • "the genes in the cluster get assorted together." - you don't mean assorted; I think you mean sorted, but assigned is a better word.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 12:57

2 Answers 2


“…or there's another concise way of expressing what I've described?”

As a published molecular biologist and native English speaker I would not use “indivisible”, and certainly not “atomic” to describe your clusters. I find it difficult to see why you need to say anything other than something which I would find unambiguous like:

The genes were sorted in two stages. In the first stage each was assigned to a cluster; in the second stage each cluster was assigned to one of two groups.

If you really think you must, you might modify this to something like:

permanently assigned to a specific cluster…

…each entire cluster was assigned…

However, rather than clarifying the situation I think you risk sowing doubt in the reader’s mind. Why would the reader imagine that a cluster would be split? (Unless there is something that hasn’t been explained in the question.)


An indivisible cluster is one that cannot or should not be divided. If you feel uneasy about the word there are several other candidates. I only suggest a few here.

Inseparable - one that cannot be separated.

Amalgamated - one in which the individual components have lost their separate identities.

Pooled - one in which the components represent a combined pool with its own identity. This word may be liked for its familiarity, or disliked for its potential to confuse, by genetics specialists because of its echoing of the phrase gene pool.

Bound - one in which the originally separate items are now locked together. (As in the concept of “bound electrons”)

Fixed - one that is fixed together permanently (similar usage to “the fixed stars”)

A late thought: would “immutable” be suitable? An immutable cluster implies one that is permanent and cannot be changed.

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