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mutually exclusive

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noun

of or relating to a situation involving two or more events, possibilities, etc., in which the occurrence of one precludes the occurrence of the other: mutually exclusive plans of action.

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Origin of mutually exclusive

First recorded in 1870–75
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does mutually exclusive mean?

Describing two things as mutually exclusive means that they can’t both exist, be true, or happen at the same time.

In most cases, the phrase implies that one of the things prevents the other from happening or being true, or that both things prevent each other from happening or being true.

Mutually exclusive is often used in negative constructions about things that are said to be not mutually exclusive—meaning they can both happen or be true at the same time.

Example: Kindness and a good business sense are not mutually exclusive—it’s possible to be financially successful without being a jerk.

Where does mutually exclusive come from?

The first records of the phrase mutually exclusive come from the 1870s. In mutually exclusive, mutually is used in the sense of a reciprocal relationship (one that involves a pair in which each part impacts the other), and exclusive is used to indicate that something is being excluded or precluded from happening or being true.

Mutually exclusive is sometimes used in the context of logic and probability. In logic, it’s used to describe two statements (also called propositions) that are completely incompatible with each other. For example, “It is Monday” and “It is Friday” are mutually exclusive propositions. In probability, mutually exclusive scenarios are those in which one option blocks the other from happening (like rolling a die and getting a certain number, which precludes you from getting any of the other numbers on the die).

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What are some other forms related to mutually exclusive?

  • mutual exclusion (noun)
  • mutual exclusivity (noun)
  • mutual exclusiveness (noun)
  • mutually exclude (verb)

What are some synonyms for mutually exclusive?

What are some words that share a root or word element with mutually exclusive

What are some words that often get used in discussing mutually exclusive?

 

How is mutually exclusive used in real life?

Mutually exclusive can be used in all kinds of contexts, but it’s commonly used in the context of events, plans, and personal traits.

Try using mutually exclusive!

Which of the following pair of scenarios involves two mutually exclusive things?

A. Owning a cat and owning a turtle
B. Liking chocolate and liking vanilla
C. Being alive and being dead
D. Having brown hair and having freckles

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