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A while back I was talking about it with friends.

Another question indicates a few meanings of the "meta-" prefix. Considering that "meta" means, in simple words, "about itself" (like how metadata is data about data), what would be the appropriate prefix to mean the opposite relationship?

It seemed to us that "meta" raised a concept to a new level, and we were wondering what prefix would, conversely, lower a concept to another level. Is there another prefix I could use to cancel out the "meta" in "metadata" to get back to "data"?

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Can you give an example of the sort of way you’re hoping to use this prefix? –  PLL Feb 11 '11 at 1:04
    
@PLL I really don't have any concrete example. It's a completely theoric issue. We tend to abuse the meta prefix, and we came to wonder if there was an antonym. –  zneak Feb 11 '11 at 3:48
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I realise it's nearly a year on, but I happened to stumble across this question and found it ironic that you seem to have inadvertently answered your own question in your comment, because the way meta is used in metadata, it typically implies an abstraction of sorts, the opposite of which would be concrete data. –  Amos M. Carpenter Feb 7 '12 at 12:54
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I always thought the the opposite of meta- was -ɐʇəɯ. :) –  tchrist May 14 '12 at 20:09
    
What about "unmeta"? If x is "metadata", then unmeta-x will give you "data" –  Pacerier Jul 10 at 6:29

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Meta- comes from Ancient Greek, and in this sense means beyond, with, about or after. An example is Aristotle's Metaphysics which his editors placed after his Physics, and started readers thinking it might mean more than location. That suggests to me that the Latin pre- or Greek pro- could be possible antonyms used in a similar way.

But this would only help if people used it. Shall we try to push premetadata or prometadata? Or would actual data be more easily understood?

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proto-, sub-, and infra- might also be options, depending on the particular examples the OP has in mind. –  PLL Feb 11 '11 at 1:02
    
If metadata is what comes after and beyond data, then what comes before data should be sinedata, or slightly more modern and with slightly better additional etymological meaning sansdata. –  Orbling Feb 11 '11 at 2:06
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I also like infra-. Because meta- means transcending, encompassing, or 'a superset of...', then infra- would would be a proper antonym describing within, or 'a subset of...' If metadata is that data that describes the data within itself, then infradata should be that inferior data which is described. –  oosterwal Feb 12 '11 at 9:26
    
I think terms like "sub-data" for the data that meta-data are about would be a bit misleading; it would imply three levels: sub-data, full data, and meta-data. "Sub-meta-data" would be theoretically consistent, but awkward. "Actual data" would work. Or perhaps just "data": if there are two levels, it will often be clear enough if just one is marked. –  Cerberus Apr 26 '11 at 23:30
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Or perhaps "base data"? –  Cerberus Apr 26 '11 at 23:37

May be a little late, but I was wondering about this today. I found this in-depth paper on the topic, so thought I'd share.

The conclusion they reach is that "mesa" is the opposite: What's the Opposite of Meta?

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I like their way of thinking, but mesa wouldn't work in Greek. It is not a preposition, like meta, or a prefix. If they must use some form of mesos ("middle"), they should probably choose meso; but that would still not make much sense. Better use a prefix that means something in English. –  Cerberus Apr 26 '11 at 23:36
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Sure, I follow you and you have a valid point. However, there's a problem with using an existing English prefix, none of them mean exactly what it is we're trying to define. Composing prefixes just adds confusion since the individual prefixes already mean something specific in our minds. "Mesa" might not be a 1-to-1, but it's new and has a nice resemblance to "meta". Adoption of a new word is important and I think this resemblance can help. –  Joe Apr 29 '11 at 20:06

I don't think there's a perfect match, but I think "shallow" or "concrete" might do in a pinch. "Ortho" and "para" are also perfectly good prefixes that need a new meaning.

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protected by RegDwigнt May 15 '12 at 15:52

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