A friend of mine just stated:

I'm unimpressed by iOS6, most of the "features" they are introducing have been there since Android's conception.

I was about to correct him, believing inception to be the correct word.

When should one be used over the other?


7 Answers 7


I would say that inception is the more relevant concept. Android's conception would be when the idea of the operating system was first conceived, and features being present in someone's idea of an OS doesn't matter worth a damn to anyone; it's features that are actually implemented, as at the first inception of the OS, that matter.


I am not an English expert, but with a quick look in a dictionary both conception and inception are correct in the mentioned sentence.

I think the use of the word conception will mean:

I'm unimpressed by iOS6, most of the "features" they are introducing have been there since Android's first idea.

and use of the word inception will mean:

I'm unimpressed by iOS6, most of the "features" they are introducing have been there since Android's beginning.

Don't count on my answer unless someone expert approves it. But for me this is how I would understand it.

  • Modifying the question a bit; it would seem like each word would have a particular use case. I'm interested in what those use cases are. Jun 11, 2012 at 20:53
  • +1, but I prefer 'conception' Jun 11, 2012 at 21:00
  • downvoters I don't mind, I just would appreciate it if you tell me my mistake so I learn
    – user21619
    Jun 11, 2012 at 21:08
  • I have apreciated your answer and hence voted up. My preference is nothing. Jun 11, 2012 at 21:24

Inception is more about the starting point in time. It is a temporal reference.

Conception is more about the action of creating something. A child or an idea are formed and something is produced.

So one is about the production of something, and the other is about when something is produced.

It depends on the intended semantics of the speaker in this case. Which what they said would be correct to say the idea about the act of creating the feature list for Android was conceived, would be conception.

The temporal reference of when Android was introduced would be the inception.

The two words are definitely linked but not the same semantically in any way.

  • Yes, pretty much spot on, I'd agree. Inception doesn't always refer to a specific time, but it certainly does refer to the "beginning" of something...
    – Noldorin
    Jun 11, 2012 at 21:00

The answer for this is very simple. The beginning prefix con- represents a "coming together" of many things into one, such as the human reproductive process. This is a "conception" of multiple donors of genetic information into a singular being. An inception would not require a "coming together" and as a result would be applicable for the start of an idea or concept from a single source such as the inception of a custom or belief or an idea. One may not be able to attribute the inception to one specific person or thing, but it could be implied, however, the implication of a single source would not even be required as a group of people or collective could be considered the singular source. The inception of a cultural norm or taboo would be an appropriate example of a singular idea coming from "the many." But, with the use of inception, there is no implication of a "coming together."

Here is an example of an appropriate use of conception for which the word inception could be used:

"The founding fathers met over a long period of time before the conception of our new form of government."

The above example clearly establishes a "coming together" to form an idea or concept or thing.

An example of the use of inception:

"From its inception, our new form of government solved many of the problems associated with centralized power and government corruption."

The above example is not clear with the source. There is no implication of a "coming together" during formation and as a result the word inception is appropriate for use.

  • So you’re saying that I can’t “conceive” of an idea; I can at most be a member of a team or committee that collaboratively conceives of an idea?  But I can “inceive” of an idea in isolation?  Do you have any reference to support this? Feb 25, 2018 at 16:48

The difference (conception/inception) lies in the Latin prefixes: con = with, unity; in = intra, added, introduced. Conception is the whole, while inception is the addition. There could also be aside a more concise view.


I think they are quite synonymous; however one deals more with the subject of the matter while inception deals more with the object of the matter. For instance, let's talk about the zygote. A zygote is the fusion of the sperm and egg; it is established but more than this it is a potential child though not an established child yet. The facts that it involves the fusion of two gametes gives the term conception. However that fact that it is an established potential child gives the term inception. Secondly inception is a idea, like a seed or image or design; but an idea carries conception whether it is relevant or not. Think about "one plus one equals two" and "two apples"; the word two or two apples is an inception although we all know that one apple with another apple makes two apples. Third, one can come up with various concepts as scientists do when experimenting on a hypothesis (inception). They come up body of facts (conceptions) to establish this hypothesis into a theory. Fourth, an inception can be used as conception just as a conception can be an inception.


Conception is a noun. Early 14c., "act of conceiving," from Old French concepcion and while the word can refer to, the act of conceiving, as in giving birth (see conceive). The word also is derived from Latin, conceptionem (nominative conceptio) "a comprehending, conception," noun of action from stem of concipere.

Originally in the womb sense (also with reference to Conception Day in the Church calendar); mental sense "process of forming concepts" is late 14c. Meaning "that which is conceived in the mind" is from 1520s; "general notion" is from 1785.

Inception refers to, early 15c., "beginning, starting," from Middle French incepcion and directly from Latin inceptionem (nominative inceptio) "a beginning, undertaking," noun of action from past participle stem of incipere "begin, take in hand," from in- "in, on" (see in- (2)) + cipere comb. form of capere "take, seize" (see capable).

Source: Various Etymology Dictionaries.

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