[ tel-ee-ol-uh-jee, tee-lee- ]

  1. the doctrine that final causes exist.

  2. the study of the evidences of design or purpose in nature.

  1. such design or purpose.

  2. the belief that purpose and design are a part of or are apparent in nature.

  3. (in vitalist philosophy) the doctrine that phenomena are guided not only by mechanical forces but that they also move toward certain goals of self-realization.

Origin of teleology

From the New Latin word teleologia, dating back to 1730–40. See teleo-, -logy

Other words from teleology

  • tel·e·o·log·i·cal [tel-ee-uh-loj-i-kuhl, tee-lee-], /ˌtɛl i əˈlɒdʒ ɪ kəl, ˌti li-/, tel·e·o·log·ic, adjective
  • tel·e·ol·o·gism, noun
  • tel·e·ol·o·gist, noun

Words Nearby teleology Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use teleology in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for teleology


/ (ˌtɛlɪˈɒlədʒɪ, ˌtiːlɪ-) /

  1. philosophy

    • the doctrine that there is evidence of purpose or design in the universe, and esp that this provides proof of the existence of a Designer

    • the belief that certain phenomena are best explained in terms of purpose rather than cause

    • the systematic study of such phenomena: See also final cause

  2. biology the belief that natural phenomena have a predetermined purpose and are not determined by mechanical laws

Origin of teleology

C18: from New Latin teleologia, from Greek telos end + -logy

Derived forms of teleology

  • teleological (ˌtɛlɪəˈlɒdʒɪkəl, ˌtiːlɪ-) or teleologic, adjective
  • teleologically, adverb
  • teleologism, noun
  • teleologist, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012