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Is there a single verb that means "do not want"?

E.g. "I want that object" or "I want to do this" vs. "I _____ (do not want) that object" or "I _____ (do not want) to do this"?

Also in the case of casual writing, when you might write "Let's not talk about what you want/don't want, let's take action instead" or "Let's not talk about what you do or do not want, let's take action instead", is there a single-word opposite of "want" that could be dropped in and used in combination with "want" in that type of sentence?

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No, there isn't. There are a number of verbs that include this concept, but none that is simply the negative of want in all of its uses. That's why we have negation, so we don't have to memorize a different verb every time we want to negate one. –  John Lawler Apr 12 at 0:35
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@JohnLawler Can you post that as an answer? –  Jason C Apr 12 at 0:43
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"Reject" might fit depending on the context. It is not an exact opposite though. –  ermanen Apr 12 at 0:49
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I'm rather surprised with the many answers (with up votes) that (mis-)understand the situation of the question: Not wanting is not bitterly hating something -- abhor, detest ..., eschew, dislike -- none of them is related to 'not want.' I would think this is so simple. –  Kris Apr 12 at 6:00
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Jason, I don't want to disappoint you but Prof Lawler is right, only not want can mean that. –  Kris Apr 12 at 6:02

8 Answers 8

Consider using dislike.

I dislike that broom.

I dislike sweeping the floor.

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I like this one, thanks; it's not the exact meaning of "do not want" but it implies it and has about the same strength (not too extreme). –  Jason C Apr 12 at 4:14

The term eschew means

to keep away from (something harmful or disliked); shun; avoid; abstain from

However, it seems a bit more active than the obverse of want.

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Some of the responses are a bit too strong to be opposites of want. I voted for dislike, but I'll also suggest avoid.

  1. To keep away from; to keep clear of; to endeavor not to meet; to shun; to abstain from.

In your examples "I avoid that object" and "I avoid doing that" seem to fit nicely as opposites to want.

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Thanks! Yes, there are a lot of strong words here. I like "avoid" too, although it is similar to "reject" in that "want" sort of describes a feeling or desire that you have, where "avoid" and "reject" describe an action that you take. For example, you can avoid/reject something and want it at the same time. –  Jason C Apr 12 at 5:58
    
@JasonC That's an interesting point! But do opposite words have to be exclusive? I have a love/hate relationship with lots of things. :) –  ghoppe Apr 14 at 21:39

I might choose abhor,

abhor   verb

to regard with extreme repugnance or aversion; detest utterly; loathe; abominate.

Or, detest, loathe or despise

despise   verb

to regard with contempt, distaste, disgust, or disdain; scorn; loathe.

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It's a stretch.... BUT they are single-words

Repudiate and refuse

  • I want + [noun] = I want prosperity
  • I repudiate + [noun] = I repudiate prosperity

  • I want to [verb] = I want to go

  • I refuse to [verb] = I refuse to go

Let's not talk about what you want or repudiate, let's take action instead
Let's not talk about what you want to do or refuse to do, let's take action instead

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reject seems like the closest opposite but it depends on the context. There is no exact opposite of "want".

reject: to refuse to take something, for example because it is damaged or is not what you wanted

reject: to refuse to accept, acknowledge, use, believe, etc

I think it covers most of the senses of "not wanting".


"disincline" would fit also (again, it is not an exact opposite). It covers different levels of unwillingness and it is both transitive and intransitive.

to make or be unwilling, reluctant, or averse


Although, "diswant" would be a nice neologism.

There is also an interesting approach regarding to semantic primitives from the book "Semantics : Primes and Universals By Anna Wierzbicka":

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"Reject" could work in some cases, although it's more of an "action" than a "feeling", if that makes sense, but I like this one. Thanks! P.S. Wow, that's a really fascinating point she makes in that passage, I never thought about that before. –  Jason C Apr 12 at 5:41

How about the verb 'to resent sth', 'to resent doing sth', 'to resent sb doing sth'?

Here is what the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English says:

resent /ri'zent/ [transitive]

to feel angry or upset about a situation or about something that someone has done, especially because you think that it is not fair; resent (somebody) doing something; bitterly/deeply/strongly resent

I resented having to work such long hours.

She bitterly resented his mother's influence over him.

Paul resented the fact that Carol didn't trust him.

I resented having (= did not want to have) to work such long hours.

She bitterly resented (= did not at all want) his mother's influence over him.

Paul resented the fact that Carol didn't (= did not want Carol not to) trust him.

Of course you cannot resent something that does not exist, whereas you can 'not want' it.

I do not want a third world war. * I resent a third world war. *

but then, just adding the phrase 'the idea of' does the trick:

I do not want (= resent the idea of) a third world war.

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Consider "exclude," "detest," and "execrate."

exclude: consider that something is not worth attention.

E.g.

In business and in life, we can get forward by doing things others exclude [=don't want] to do.

This is a rule that I vehemently exclude from my tournaments, as we've lost more than a few rounds due to this ridiculous rule.

detest: to abhor; dislike intensely.

Let the child -- say, a daughter -- be happy, let her be miserable, let her deeply desire this or deeply detest that.

execrate: to detest utterly.

What scope is there for the stronger emotions if the orator is not to his speech, to flame out in anger, to reproach, to wish or to execrate?

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