English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Exceed is commonly used, but when I found myself wanting to use the opposite I couldn't really find a single word that would do it.

fall short of and inadequate are a little off.
How about deceed?

share|improve this question
I'm a user and proponent of deceed, so I recommend it in all cases. Neologisms can hardly be bad if they're both obvious and genuinely useful. I'm only posting this as a comment because this is something of a stylistic question, and if you're looking for more common alternatives, the other answers have them. – Jon Purdy Mar 30 '11 at 18:33
I'm using deceed in a engineering context because I don't like the sad emotion connotation of the alternatives. We collect amplitude readings exceeding 17 dBm and take the average of those exceeding values. Noise amplitude readings LESS than the annoying threshold should not be called underwhelming! – Full Decent Jan 28 at 18:20
I would have said "fall short of" – I don't see why it doesn't work. – John Peyton Apr 12 at 13:12
up vote 12 down vote accepted

There are a handful of options depending on context:

They have exceeded expectations

They have missed expectations

They have eluded expectations

You have exceeded the limit

You are under the limit

You are beneath the limit

Profits exceed costs

Costs exceed profits

Profits are below costs

Profits did not meet costs

share|improve this answer
I particularly like the cost:profit example and hadn't thought of inverting the relationship of what was being exceeded, i.e. "Expectations exceeded his capabilities." – mfg Mar 31 '11 at 12:54

Maybe this is one of the cases where the context helps a bit to choose the correct expression. In evaluations it often says "below expectation / meets expectation / exceeds expectation (choose one)".

In a sentence, I'd be inclined to use:

Tom has exceeded our expectations, but Jim has fallen behind.

share|improve this answer
It seems a bit of a mixed comparison. I would be inclined to give each man his own sentence. – Sam Mar 30 '11 at 16:18

If you wanted to be glib and Jim was know to be underwhelming, you could say that Jim met your expectations. To be followed up with, and that is why we have decided to terminate his service with our company.

share|improve this answer

You might go with "underperformed".

share|improve this answer

Latin roots: exceed or excessus (surpass, go above, go beyond, go over, top, beat).

Latin roots: recede or recedere (move away, retreat, withdraw, drawback, draw away).

share|improve this answer

Underwhelm is one of my favorites as it is so thoroughly an antonym of overwhelm, which could take the place of exceeded expectations.

If you need to use expectations I would have to default to longer expressions like did not satisfy, fell short. Exceed, coming from excess, has no direct-sounding antonym that carries its connotation that feels natural to me.

share|improve this answer

protected by RegDwigнt Jun 21 '12 at 12:32

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.