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I use a CMS (content management system) where a post or comment is visible to all the users (if there aren't other restrictions) when it is flagged as published. What verb should I use to mean that I changed the status of a post from published to unpublished?

The dictionary reports that unpublished is only an adjective; therefore, I could not write I unpublished the post. I usually write I marked the post as unpublished, but it doesn't sound right to my ears (and it seems using more words than needed).

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If it's not in the dictionary already, I expect it will be by 2020. – Colonel Panic Jul 8 at 20:08

11 Answers 11

up vote 17 down vote accepted

It’s not listed in any dictionaries, but its meaning is plain from the component morphemes, and is formed by the same process that gives us undo, unbend, undress, unfreeze, and unfold.

Merriam-Webster gives a definition for un-: “do the opposite of: reverse (a specified action) … in verbs formed from verbs.”

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"its meaning is plain from the component morphemes" - is it? "Unpublished" as an adjective doesn't mean "withdrawn from publication" but "not yet published". – delete Aug 31 '10 at 2:20
@Shinto Sherlock I think your observation is right — and the confusion is because there is more than one un-; one which applies to verbs with the meaning "do the reverse", and one which applies to adjectives and means "not" (e.g. untidy). Rather than parsing the word as [un[publish]]ed (noun-to-verb-to-ppl/adj), I think it should be parsed as un[[publish]ed] (noun-to-ppl/adj-to-adj). – Kosmonaut Aug 31 '10 at 15:32
@Shinto: You are right about what it means as an adjective, but as a verb there is only one meaning likely to be inferred, so I'd say "I unpublished the post" is fine. As a parallel, "undone" as an adjective means "not yet done", but "undo" as a verb means to reverse the action of doing: "I undid the edit" / "I had just undone the edit when I remembered something". – ShreevatsaR Sep 1 '10 at 4:44
"According to James Shapiro, a Shakespeare scholar at Columbia, the un- prefix is something Shakespeare created (at least he was the first to use it in print or on stage). That means he invented the words unaware, uncomfortable, undress, uneducated, unwillingness, unsolicited, and unreal." 37signals.com/svn/posts/2527-shakespeares-word-inventions – MετάEd Dec 4 '12 at 15:52

It's an interesting exercise in usability. Withdraw is reasonable, but I believe retract to be more accurate for the use-case. Remove brings with it an ambiguity with delete that will leave most users uncertain.

Despite the incorrect use, Unpublish is almost certainly the right answer in this context.

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It's not so much about retracting as it is making it unavailable for indefinite amount of time. For instance, I've set up a CMS for a local organization and we had some relatively common frontpage "posts" that we would keep in the system but would remain "unpublished" until we needed them. We had one for inclement weather cancellations, for example. Whenever there was inclement weather, any layman staff member could log on and just press [publish] or [unpublish] in order to put it up on the front page. – advs89 Jan 21 '11 at 4:16
The use-case makes perfect sense. I still think despite the incorrect use that Unpublish is the right answer for this problem. However you may want to consider 'suppress' or 'withhold'. – buggles Jan 24 '11 at 10:44

The dictionary reports that unplublished is only an adjective; therefore, I could not write I unpublished the post. I usually write I marked the post as unpublished, but it doesn't sound right to my ears.

In the conventional sense, unpublished means "not yet published" rather than "withdrawn from publication". Therefore using "unpublish" as a verb to mean "withdraw from publication" sounds fairly odd to me.

What verb should I use to mean that I changed the status of a post from published to unpublished?

I think "withdraw" works as a verb here: "I published the article", "I withdrew the article". However, when you're referring to a specific operation on a computer or web service, "unpublish" might clarify that you're talking about the operation itself.

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Can I say I unpublished the comment, then? – kiamlaluno Aug 31 '10 at 14:13
I think it makes sense in the context of a CMS. On a CMS, the verb "publish" essentially means to "make public." The un- prefix, as mentioned by nohat, means to reverse. So it means to reverse the action of making public. – advs89 Jan 21 '11 at 4:09

In the computer/internet context, "unpublish" here is just as inevitable as "unfriend" is on Facebook.

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I actually hear "defriend" more. :) (I'm not trying to undermine your contribution here, I promise.) – Andy Oct 25 '10 at 15:12
I've heard unfriend. I don't particularly like it... but I've heard it. – advs89 Jan 21 '11 at 4:10
@Andy: Well, I can't say "defriend" is any better than unfriend ... can you? – SamB Feb 18 '11 at 1:24
@SamB: No, I don't think it's any better, but I think I've heard it more. Although, lately, I think I've been hearing "unfriend" more often than I used to. – Andy Feb 18 '11 at 15:41

You seem not to be distinguishing between English and CMS. Unpublished in English means "not yet published or made public", which isn't what you're looking for. On the other hand, anybody is at liberty to use published to mean "flagged in a particular way", so long as the usage is explained. In a CMS context, this might even be what the reader expects, in which case unpublished would be the antonym. But that isn't normal English, and probably should be on stackoverflow, not this board.

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From Unpublish.com:

"Unpublish (Un·pub·lish): To make a specified and existing published content ‘publically unavailable’"

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Is this definition obtained from standard reference sources? – user49727 Sep 14 '13 at 22:53

If you are trying to "take back" something you published, the word is retract.

"Unpublished" means not (yet) published.

As in my "unpublished novel."

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The problem with retract is the connotation of "correcting an error in content" – Merk Jul 10 '14 at 19:38


verb to remove content from a site on the web after it has been available for some time

"Facebook has unpublished our page due to users using the page to 'bully' others," Snapchat Leaked told Britain's Metro tabloid."

Unpublish — Wiktionary

  1. (transitive verb, chiefly computing) To remove (something previously published) from circulation; to retract.
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+1 This answer is the only one to include the meaning of the verb unpublish as currently used in online publishing. The administrator control panel at one tech site where I do freelance work includes a toggle for each article with options labeled Publish and Unpublish, designed specifically to make an article available online or to make it (temporarily) unavailable online after initial publishing. We may regret that the latter verb choice invites confusion about the meaning of "an unpublished article"—but unpublish is in everyday use, and I don't expect it to go away in my lifetime. – Sven Yargs Jun 21 at 1:46

You can wordify anything if you verb it. I do not think that anyone would understand what it would mean to "unpublish" something, but that is not to say that it does not have the potential to exist: one might imagine a science-fiction novel in which time travel exists and, thus, it might be possible to go back in time and unpublish a book.

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Well in a real world case a book publisher could find every purchaser, reclaim every book, and burn them to 'unpublish' a book. Possible if not practical. In the computer analogy to publishing, the reverse operation is a lot easier, so using unpublish for the reverse operation seems reasonable. 'Do' versus 'Undo' is a similar case where the computer operation is easier than the real-world equivalent. – Oldcat Nov 7 '13 at 19:49

An alternative I've seen (although I think in the context of a CMS, the terms publish and unpublish work fine) is to refer to the post being hidden when you've taken it offline.

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Wouldn’t depublish work here?


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I used depublish - at least it exists in dictionary. – Ersin Demirtas Aug 9 '14 at 14:01

protected by tchrist Aug 9 '14 at 15:15

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