An entity is something that has a distinct, separate existence
In common usage, existence is the world we are aware of through our senses, and that persists independently without them. In academic philosophy the word has a more specialized meaning, being contrasted with essence, which specifies different forms of existence as well as different identity...

, although it need not be a material existence. In particular, abstraction
Abstraction is a process by which higher concepts are derived from the usage and classification of literal concepts, first principles, or other methods....

s and legal fiction
Legal fiction
A legal fiction is a fact assumed or created by courts which is then used in order to apply a legal rule which was not necessarily designed to be used in that way...

s are usually regarded as entities. In general, there is also no presumption that an entity is animate
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...


An entity could be viewed as a set containing subset
In mathematics, especially in set theory, a set A is a subset of a set B if A is "contained" inside B. A and B may coincide. The relationship of one set being a subset of another is called inclusion or sometimes containment...

s. In philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, such sets are said to be abstract object
Abstract object
An abstract object is an object which does not exist at any particular time or place, but rather exists as a type of thing . In philosophy, an important distinction is whether an object is considered abstract or concrete. Abstract objects are sometimes called abstracta An abstract object is an...


Sometimes, the word entity is used in a general sense of a being
Being , is an English word used for conceptualizing subjective and objective aspects of reality, including those fundamental to the self —related to and somewhat interchangeable with terms like "existence" and "living".In its objective usage —as in "a being," or "[a] human being" —it...

, whether or not the referent has material existence; e.g., is often referred to as an entity with no corporeal
Matter is a general term for the substance of which all physical objects consist. Typically, matter includes atoms and other particles which have mass. A common way of defining matter is as anything that has mass and occupies volume...

 form, such as a language. It is also often used to refer to ghost
In traditional belief and fiction, a ghost is the soul or spirit of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living. Descriptions of the apparition of ghosts vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to...

s and other spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...


Taken further, entity sometimes refers to existence or being itself. For example, the former U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan
George F. Kennan
George Frost Kennan was an American adviser, diplomat, political scientist and historian, best known as "the father of containment" and as a key figure in the emergence of the Cold War...

 once said that "the policy of the government of the United States is to seek ... to preserve Chinese territorial and administrative entity."

The word entitative is the adjective form of the noun entity. Something that is entitative is "considered as pure entity; abstracted from all circumstances", that is, regarded as entity alone, apart from attendant circumstances.

Specialized uses

  • In system
    System is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole....

    , entity means a component.
  • A DBMS
    Database management system
    A database management system is a software package with computer programs that control the creation, maintenance, and use of a database. It allows organizations to conveniently develop databases for various applications by database administrators and other specialists. A database is an integrated...

     entity is either a thing in the modeled world or a drawing element in an ERD
    Entity-relationship model
    In software engineering, an entity-relationship model is an abstract and conceptual representation of data. Entity-relationship modeling is a database modeling method, used to produce a type of conceptual schema or semantic data model of a system, often a relational database, and its requirements...

  • In SUMO
    Suggested Upper Merged Ontology
    The Suggested Upper Merged Ontology or SUMO is an upper ontology intended as a foundation ontology for a variety of computer information processing systems. It was originally developed by the Teknowledge Corporation and now is maintained by . It is one candidate for the "standard upper ontology"...

    , Entity is the root node and stands for the universal class of individuals.
  • In VHDL, entity is the keyword for defining a new object.
  • An SGML
    SGML entity
    In the Standard Generalized Markup Language , an entity is a primitive data type, which associates a string with either a unique alias or an SGML reserved word . Entities are foundational to the organizational structure and definition of SGML documents...

     entity is an abbreviation for some expanded piece of SGML text.
  • An open systems architecture
    Open systems architecture
    Open systems architecture, in telecommunication, is a standard that describes the layered hierarchical structure, configuration, or model of a communications or distributed data processing system that:...

     entity is an active routine within a layer.
  • In computer game
    Personal computer game
    A PC game, also known as a computer game, is a video game played on a personal computer, rather than on a video game console or arcade machine...

    s and game engine
    Game engine
    A game engine is a system designed for the creation and development of video games. There are many game engines that are designed to work on video game consoles and personal computers...

    s, entity is a dynamic object such as a non-player character
    Non-player character
    A non-player character , sometimes known as a non-person character or non-playable character, in a game is any fictional character not controlled by a player. In electronic games, this usually means a character controlled by the computer through artificial intelligence...

     or item.
  • In HTML
    HyperText Markup Language is the predominant markup language for web pages. HTML elements are the basic building-blocks of webpages....

    , entity is a code snippet (i.e.: "®" for "Registered Trademark") which is interpreted by web browsers to display special characters. See List of XML and HTML character entity references.
  • In law
    Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

    , a legal entity is an entity that is capable of bearing legal rights
    Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory...

     and obligation
    An obligation is a requirement to take some course of action, whether legal or moral. There are also obligations in other normative contexts, such as obligations of etiquette, social obligations, and possibly...

    s, such as a natural person
    Natural person
    Variously, in jurisprudence, a natural person is a human being, as opposed to an artificial, legal or juristic person, i.e., an organization that the law treats for some purposes as if it were a person distinct from its members or owner...

     or an artificial person (e.g. business entity or a corporate entity).

See also

  • Boltzmann brain
    Boltzmann brain
    A Boltzmann brain is a hypothesized self-aware entity which arises due to random fluctuations out of a state of chaos. The idea is named for the physicist Ludwig Boltzmann , who advanced an idea that the known universe arose as a random fluctuation, similar to a process through which Boltzmann...

    , a hypothesized self-aware entity.
  • Digital identity
    Digital identity
    Digital identity is the aspect of digital technology that is concerned with the mediation of people's experience of their own identity and the identity of other people and things...

  • Entity class
  • Entity realism
    Entity realism
    Entity realism is a philosophical position within the debate about scientific realism. Whereas traditional scientific realism argues that our best scientific theories are true, or approximately true, or closer to the truth than their predecessors, entity realism does not commit itself to judgments...

    , a form of scientific realism
    Scientific realism
    Scientific realism is, at the most general level, the view that the world described by science is the real world, as it is, independent of what we might take it to be...

  • Object (philosophy)
    Object (philosophy)
    An object in philosophy is a technical term often used in contrast to the term subject. Consciousness is a state of cognition that includes the subject, which can never be doubted as only it can be the one who doubts, and some object or objects that may or may not have real existence without...

  • Ontology
    Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality as such, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations...

    , the study of being, existence and entities
  • Zionist entity
    Zionist entity
    Zionist entity is a phrase often used by Arabs and Muslims as a pejorative for the State of Israel. The term is described as a means of expressing hostility towards Israel, refusing to acknowledge its existence as a state, and denying its right to exist. Virginia Q...

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