[tel-ee-ol-uh-jee, tee-lee-]
noun Philosophy.
  1. the doctrine that final causes exist.
  2. the study of the evidences of design or purpose in nature.
  3. such design or purpose.
  4. the belief that purpose and design are a part of or are apparent in nature.
  5. (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
Related formstel·e·o·log·i·cal [tel-ee-uh-loj-i-kuh l, tee-lee-] /ˌtɛl i əˈlɒdʒ ɪ kəl, ˌti li-/, tel·e·o·log·ic, adjectivetel·e·ol·o·gism, nountel·e·ol·o·gist, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for teleology

Historical Examples of teleology

  • They are saturated with a teleology which, at times, becomes excessively tedious.

  • That is 035using teleology as a regulative principle, in Kant's sense of the word.

    Form and Function

    E. S. (Edward Stuart) Russell

  • Teleology concerns the ends for which organisms were designed.

    On the Genesis of Species

    St. George Mivart

  • As another illustration we may take the case of mechanism and teleology.

  • Lastly, a few words about the very difficult question of teleology.

    The Last Link

    Ernst Haeckel

British Dictionary definitions for teleology


  1. philosophy
    1. 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
    2. the belief that certain phenomena are best explained in terms of purpose rather than cause
    3. the systematic study of such phenomenaSee also final cause
  2. biology the belief that natural phenomena have a predetermined purpose and are not determined by mechanical laws
Derived Formsteleological (ˌtɛlɪəˈlɒdʒɪkəl, ˌtiːlɪ-) or teleologic, adjectiveteleologically, adverbteleologism, nounteleologist, noun

Word Origin for teleology

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

Word Origin and History for teleology

"study of final causes," 1740, from Modern Latin teleologia, coined 1728 by German philosopher Baron Christian von Wolff (1679-1754) from Greek teleos "entire, perfect, complete," properly genitive of telos "end, goal, result" (see tele-), + -logia (see -logy).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper