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The Collaborative International Dictionary


Variety \Va*ri"e*ty\, n.; pl. Varieties. [L. varietas: cf. F. vari['e]t['e]. See Various.]

  1. The quality or state of being various; intermixture or succession of different things; diversity; multifariousness.

    Variety is nothing else but a continued novelty.

    The variety of colors depends upon the composition of light.
    --Sir I. Newton.

    For earth this variety from heaven.

    There is a variety in the tempers of good men.

  2. That which is various. Specifically:

    1. A number or collection of different things; a varied assortment; as, a variety of cottons and silks.

      He . . . wants more time to do that variety of good which his soul thirsts after.

    2. Something varying or differing from others of the same general kind; one of a number of things that are akin; a sort; as, varieties of wood, land, rocks, etc.

    3. (Biol.) An individual, or group of individuals, of a species differing from the rest in some one or more of the characteristics typical of the species, and capable either of perpetuating itself for a period, or of being perpetuated by artificial means; hence, a subdivision, or peculiar form, of a species.

      Note: Varieties usually differ from species in that any two, however unlike, will generally propagate indefinitely (unless they are in their nature unfertile, as some varieties of rose and other cultivated plants); in being a result of climate, food, or other extrinsic conditions or influences, but generally by a sudden, rather than a gradual, development; and in tending in many cases to lose their distinctive peculiarities when the individuals are left to a state of nature, and especially if restored to the conditions that are natural to typical individuals of the species. Many varieties of domesticated animals and of cultivated plants have been directly produced by man.

    4. In inorganic nature, one of those forms in which a species may occur, which differ in minor characteristics of structure, color, purity of composition, etc.

      Note: These may be viewed as variations from the typical species in its most perfect and purest form, or, as is more commonly the case, all the forms, including the latter, may rank as Varieties. Thus, the sapphire is a blue variety, and the ruby a red variety, of corundum; again, calcite has many Varieties differing in form and structure, as Iceland spar, dogtooth spar, satin spar, and also others characterized by the presence of small quantities of magnesia, iron, manganese, etc. Still again, there are Varieties of granite differing in structure, as graphic granite, porphyritic granite, and other Varieties differing in composition, as albitic granite, hornblendic, or syenitic, granite, etc.

  3. (Theaters) Such entertainment as in given in variety shows; the production of, or performance in, variety shows. [Cant]

    Geographical variety (Biol.), a variety of any species which is coincident with a geographical region, and is usually dependent upon, or caused by, peculiarities of climate.

    Variety hybrid (Biol.), a cross between two individuals of different varieties of the same species; a mongrel.

    Syn: Diversity; difference; kind.

    Usage: Variety, Diversity. A man has a variety of employments when he does many things which are not a mere repetition of the same act; he has a diversity of employments when the several acts performed are unlike each other, that is, diverse. In most cases, where there is variety there will be more or less of diversity, but not always. One who sells railroad tickets performs a great variety of acts in a day, while there is but little diversity in his employment.

    All sorts are here that all the earth yields! Variety without end.

    But see in all corporeal nature's scene, What changes, what diversities, have been!



n. (plural of variety English).

Usage examples of "varieties".

I think this must be admitted, when we find that there are hardly any domestic races, either amongst animals or plants, which have not been ranked by some competent judges as mere varieties, and by other competent judges as the descendants of aboriginally distinct species.

With these exceptions (and with that of the perfect fertility of varieties when crossed, - a subject hereafter to be discussed), domestic races of the same species differ from each other in the same manner as, only in most cases in a lesser degree than, do closely-allied species of the same genus in a state of nature.

If it could be shown that our domestic varieties manifested a strong tendency to reversion, -- that is, to lose their acquired characters, whilst kept under unchanged conditions, and whilst kept in a considerable body, so that free intercrossing might check, by blending together, any slight deviations of structure, in such case, I grant that we could deduce nothing from domestic varieties in regard to species.

I read you these cases without comment,—they express so many varieties of the state of mind we are studying.

These varieties, moreover, will be often ranked by some authors as species.

Lamarck seems to have been chiefly led to his conclusion on the gradual change of species, by the difficulty of distinguishing species and varieties, by the almost perfect gradation of forms in certain groups, and by the analogy of domestic productions.

Of the accidental varieties of man, which would occur among the first few and scattered inhabitants of the middle regions of Africa, some one would be better fitted than the others to bear the diseases of the country.

But the same disposition to form varieties still existing, a darker and a darker race would in the course of time occur: and as the darkest would be the best fitted for the climate, this would at length become the most prevalent.

He argues from the analogy of domestic productions, from the changes which the embryos of many species undergo, from the difficulty of distinguishing species and varieties, and from the principle of general gradation, that species have been modified.

Our oldest cultivated plants, such as wheat, still often yield new varieties: our oldest domesticated animals are still capable of rapid improvement or modification.

There would be great difficulty in proving its truth: we may safely conclude that very many of the most strongly-marked domestic varieties could not possibly live in a wild state.

Nevertheless, as our varieties certainly do occasionally revert in some of their characters to ancestral forms, it seems to me not improbable, that if we could succeed in naturalising, or were to cultivated during many generations, the several races, for instance, of the cabbage, in very poor soil (in which case, however, some effect would have to be attributed to the direct action of the poor soil), that they would to a large extent, or even wholly, revert to the wild aboriginal stock.

If the several breeds are not varieties, and have not proceeded from the rock pigeon, they must have descended from at least seven or eight aboriginal stocks.

It is not that the varieties which differ largely in some one point do not differ at all in other points.

This, perhaps, partly explains what has been remarked by some authors, namely, that the varieties kept by savages have more of the character of species than the varieties kept in civilised countries.