Saturday, July 23, 2005

A new one for my list of absent antonyms

Here's a new one that, despite 'trophy' being a common English word, still qualifies under rule 8:


This is also the first one using the Greek-derived negative prefix a- that I've allowed onto my list.

Rule 5 disqualifies words that are primarily technical or medical, but I am inclined towards allowing




on the grounds that they are in reasonably common non-specialist use.

If you've no idea what I'm on about, see here: Absent Antonyms


  1. R.A. of Shanghai says:

    I'm surprised you paid so little attention in your article to the prefix, "dis-",
    which throws up some of the very best absent antonyms. I, for one, have never heard
    of anyone feeling "tressed" or "appointed" or overcome with "may" (all of which have
    nice proper meanings), let alone "gruntled" or "combobulated" (if you accept that the
    negative form of the latter is in fact a word).

  2. A stateside N.R. says:

    I'm living and working in the US at the moment (I do like your reason number 7 for not travelling by air by the way) - it's not so bad up here in the Northeast though - there are actually a few people with acceptable social and political viewpoints. One more point of comment from your site - I would like to submit an "absent antonym" for consideration. I suggest that "unkempt" is used frequently, whereas I doubt if I've ever used the word "kempt". I also note that the word unkempt is used a large of the time for beards - it may even have been used to describe yourself !

  3. P.S.Q., who may be Australian, says:

    Some absent antonyms for your consideration.

  4. H.D. of Glasgow says:

    Anyhoo, I was browsing around your webpage and I came across the missing antonyms thingy - and I just wanted to say - "infamy"!

    O' course, infamy is kinda the opposite of fame, or fame for all the wrong reasons - kin of "notoriety", etc. But there is no "famy".

    Also - you forgot to include the prefix "irr-" (irresponsible, irrational, etc) in your list.

  5. H.D. returns to add:


  6. Absent antonym: nonchalant

  7. The 2wheels approach to Absent Antonyms is now featured on Wikipedia:

    (Readers in China will need to access this link via an anonymous proxy server, thanks to the Chinese government's enlightened policy towards freedom of information.)

  8. I actually have a correction for you. Which is not to say that I don't find this subject, which I too have pondered a bit (although admittedly not as much as you!), fascinating. However, I was recently researching this for Yahoo! Answers to find if there is a name for these "absent antonyms." (The poser of the question dubbed them "orphan opposites"; another responder linked to your site, which is how I got here.) I found, much to my surprise, that ruth and ruthful are, indeed, words. I sense your skepticism already, but this was not found via Internet research, but in my invaluable copy of Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary:

    "ruth, n. 1. pity or compassion. 2. sorrow or grief. 3. self-reproach; contrition; remorse. (1125-75; ME ruthe, reuthe. See RUE(1), -TH(1)]
    --Syn. 1. mercy, sympathy. --Ant. 1. cruelty."

    "ruthful, adj. 1. compassionate or sorrowful. 2. causing or apt to cause sorrow or pity. 3. feeling remorse or self-reproach. [1175-1225; ME; see RUTH, -FUL] --ruthfully, adv. --ruthfulness, n."

    Even though you don't have dis- words listed (though I hope you consider doing so, as it opens up a whole new world of possibilties), I'll share another factoid for your amusement, and for future reference (should you decide to ponder them): The word disheveled, of course, does not have the antonym heveled, but that is because it does not actually mean "un-heveled." The word comes from the Old French verb descheveler, which means "to dishevel the hair." That word is indeed similar to our words that begin with dis-, as it is a combination of des- (akin to our dis-) and cheveler, a derivative of chevel, meaning "a hair."

    Special thanks to my online "sister" bibliosylph for beginning the legwork on this research.

  9. "Infinity"s' integer mathematically is "Infinitesimal". However, "Zero" could be considered an antonym.

  10. How's about inevitable and "evitable"

  11. If you're willing to expand your quest for absent antonyms to adjective/adverbial phrases, you might consider "out of whack," for how often has any situation been described as having something "in whack?"

  12. 'incalcitrant' is also an interesting example for a couple of reasons.

    V.H. of Preston, Lancashire

  13. nonchalant - The other day I told my daughter that I wanted her to be nonchalant about something and she said she wanted to be chalant! Funny!

  14. How about the word unnerving? Can things be nerving?

  15. Inplacable; perhaps there aren't many placable people as there is no word for it, interestingly Word's thesaurus gives impacable a similar meaning to ruthless.

    We clearly need more placability and ruthness!

  16. Unless someone can feckly argue the contrary, surely 'feckless' belongs in the list?

    [maRJOram in SA]

  17. What about absent positives with suffixes? Eg: gormless

  18. I have a peculiar fascination with these words! Is there an official name for them?