Heterogeneous is an adjective used to describe an object or system consisting of multiple items having a large number of structural variations. It is the opposite of "homogeneous", which means that an object or system consists of multiple identical items. Matters of a quantum can exist in homogenous or in heterogeneous or in combined distributions. The term is often used in a scientific (such as a kind of catalyst), mathematical, sociological or statistical context.

A heterogeneous compound, mixture, reaction or other such object is one that consists of many different items, which are often not easily sorted or separated, though they are clearly distinct.

A "heterogeneous mixture" is a mixture of two or more compounds.In chemical kinetics, a "heterogeneous reaction" is one that takes place at the interface of two or more i.e. between a solid and a gas, a liquid and a gas, or a solid and a liquid.In general meaning having different states of texture such as sand and water the sand being on the bottom.Some examples:sand and iron filingsa conglomerate rockwater and oil, depending on who you ask,salad,trail mix,concrete (not cement).
*mesoporous silicates


In meta analysis the term refers to the presence of multiple non-random intercepts in a dataset. In Meta-analysis of clinical studies which involves comparing and quantifying the effects of separate studies, heterogeneity refers to the differences in study populations or in methodologies used to study them that may have the effect of reaching differing conclusions. This is a problem as it calls into question conclusions that are drawn from studies and reduces their comparability. The following concepts are important in understanding the importance of heterogeneity in meta-analytical research.

Clinical Heterogeneity:

Heterogeneity resulting from differences in clinical features of a population that is being studied or treated.

Methodological Heterogeneity:

Heterogeneity resulting from the differential use of study methodology. These may lead to different conclusions in different studies, despite their clinical characteristics being the same.

Statistical Heterogeneity:

Heterogeneity resulting from either clinical or statistical heterogeneity, which leads to a difference in expected results, more than which can be accounted for by chance.


In the world of enterprise computing, "heterogeneous data" is a mix of data from two or more sources, often of two or more formats, e.g., SQL and XML.

Distributed systems are called "heterogeneous" if they contain many different types of hardware and software.

ee also

Distributed computing

ocial and human science

"Homogeneity" and "heterogeneity" are terms used to describe variety in many aspects of human groups, communities and populations, including cultural, demographic, ethnic and socio-political. In Economics and Social Sciences, 'heterogeneous agents' refers to a set of agents with different properties. The opposite of 'heterogeneous agents' in economic terminology is 'representative agent'.


In taxonomy, a "heterogeneous taxon" is a taxon that contains a great variety of individuals or sub-taxa; usually this implies that the taxon is an artificial grouping.


In genetics, heterogeneity refers to multiple origins causing the same disorder in different individuals.

Allelic heterogeneity

If a number of different mutations occurring the same gene produce disorders, it is said to manifest "allelic heterogeneity".This term has been used when a number of different alleles cause a similar phenotype or different phenotypes.

Example diseases:
* Different FBN1 mutations causing Marfan's syndrome
* Cystic fibrosis is caused by greater than 900 different mutant alleles
* Alpha-Thalassemia or sickle cell anemia can be caused by different mutations in alpha-globin gene.

Locus (Non-allelic) Heterogeneity

If mutations at a number of different loci, usually in different genes, all result in the same disorder (phenotype), such disorder is said to manifest "locus heterogeneity".

Example Disease:
* Retinitis Pigmentosa has autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive, and X-linked causes.

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  • Heterogeneous — Het er*o*ge ne*ous, a. [Gr. ?; ? + ? race, kind; akin to E. kin: cf. F. h[ e]t[ e]rog[ e]ne.] Differing in kind; having unlike qualities; possessed of different characteristics; dissimilar; opposed to homogeneous, and said of two or more… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • heterogeneous — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ diverse in character or content: a heterogeneous collection. DERIVATIVES heterogeneity noun heterogeneously adverb. ORIGIN from Greek heteros other + genos a kind …   English terms dictionary

  • heterogeneous — I adjective assorted, different, disparate, dissimilar, dissimilis, diverse, diversified, diversiform, diversus, incongruous, irrelative, miscellaneous, mixed, motley, multiform, nonuniform, unalike, unequal, unlike, unmatched, unrelated, variant …   Law dictionary

  • heterogeneous — 1620s, from M.L. heterogeneus, from Gk. heterogenes, from heteros different (see HETERO (Cf. hetero )) + genos kind, gender, race stock (see GENUS (Cf. genus)). Earlier in same sense was heterogeneal (c.1600) …   Etymology dictionary

  • heterogeneous — *miscellaneous, motley, promiscuous, assorted Analogous words: diverse, disparate, various, divergent, *different: mixed, mingled, commingled (see MIX): multifarious, divers (see MANY) Antonyms: homogeneous Contrasted words: uniform, identical,… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • heterogeneous — [adj] assorted, miscellaneous amalgamate, composite, confused, conglomerate, contrary, contrasted, different, discordant, discrepant, disparate, dissimilar, divergent, diverse, diversified, incongruous, independent, inharmonious, jumbled, mingled …   New thesaurus

  • heterogeneous — [het΄ər ə΄jē′nē əs] adj. [ML heterogeneus < Gr heterogenēs < hetero , other, HETERO + genos, a race, kind: see GENUS] 1. differing or opposite in structure, quality, etc.; dissimilar; incongruous; foreign 2. composed of unrelated or unlike… …   English World dictionary

  • heterogeneous — [[t]he̱tərəʤi͟ːniəs[/t]] ADJ GRADED: usu ADJ n A heterogeneous group consists of many different types of things or people. [FORMAL] ...a rather heterogeneous collection of studies from diverse origins. ...the heterogeneous society of today. Syn:… …   English dictionary

  • heterogeneous — [ˌhɛt(ə)rə(ʊ) dʒi:nɪəs, dʒɛn ] adjective 1》 diverse in character or content. 2》 Chemistry denoting a process involving substances in different phases (solid, liquid, or gaseous): heterogeneous catalysis. Derivatives heterogeneity dʒɪ ni:ɪti,… …   English new terms dictionary

  • heterogeneous — heterogeneously, adv. heterogeneousness, n. /het euhr euh jee nee euhs, jeen yeuhs/, adj. 1. different in kind; unlike; incongruous. 2. composed of parts of different kinds; having widely dissimilar elements or constituents: The party was… …   Universalium