Is there a word that references someone's "humanness"? Something that one would posses, that would characterise them as human. I wouldn't say "human" in terms of morals, but "human" in the most literal sense. I'll give an example:

"He demonstrates extreme physical ability, to the point where I question his __".

What would be the most appropriate way to express this?

closed as general reference by Urbycoz, tchrist, kiamlaluno, user11550, TimLymington Aug 28 '12 at 14:05

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  • you mean biological sense as opposed to moral? – SF. Jun 18 '12 at 10:23
  • Yes. We can say that what makes someone human refers to how their morals function (A Mass Murderer would be called "not human"), but I'm talking about human in what literally makes us human. The true physical aspects of being human. Feeling, breathing, getting tired, etc. – Zolani13 Jun 18 '12 at 10:26
  • "... to the point where I question if he's merely mortal." – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jun 19 '12 at 2:21

I think the word you're looking for is humanity.

The word has more than one definition, but many dictionaries list one that aligns with what you are seeking:

NOAD: the fact or condition of being human
Collins: the quality of being human
M-W: the quality or state of being human
H-M: The condition or quality of being human.

Humanity, then, can refer to being human, or to being humane.

  • 1
    No, the OP specifically said that they weren't interested in "humanness" from the moral point of view, which is what "humanity" is. – user16269 Jun 18 '12 at 11:03
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    @DavidWallace: I guess maybe it depends on your dictionary. Most that I checked had at least 3 definitions, one of them aligning with the moral sense of the word, as you say, but another with more of the biological sense, i.e., of "being human." Great catch, though. – J.R. Jun 18 '12 at 11:22
  • @J.R. true enough, but 'humanity' so often refers to a person's morals that I'm not sure it would work in this context, even though it works from a purely lexicographical point of view. – JAM Jun 18 '12 at 14:22

I don't know a single word for this, but I would have written

He demonstrates extreme physical ability, to the point where I question whether he's human.


Humanness exists and means 'the quality, state, or condition of being human'. You might also consider humanhood, 'human nature or character'. (OED definitions.)


I think, 'manliness' would be better expressive than 'humanness'. It characterizes 'He' and more specific.

Obviously, 'Humanity' would not be appropriate, as it signifies the marality.

If it is also wrong what author implies below line would make more sense than a single word.

"He demonstrates extreme physical ability, to the point where I question whether he belongs human race".

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    ...although I doubt questioning someone's manliness would imply what the author wanted to imply... – SF. Jun 18 '12 at 11:36
  • @SF. ohh. If this is so, I added one more implied line for this. – Umesh Jun 18 '12 at 11:42

Although neither refer specifically to the quality of being human, both physiology and biology could be appropriate.

Since the wording of your sentence sets up a biological context, humanity would work, because its moral connotation wouldn't make sense:

He demonstrates extreme physical ability, to the point where I question his humanity.

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