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The term subcategories refers to lower level categories.

Which term should I use to refer to higher level categories?

Does supercategories sound right?

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5 Answers

up vote 24 down vote accepted

Supercategories is technically correct.

There are also subscript and superscript to back this example.

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And for those of us in Computer Science, subclasses and superclasses. journals.ecs.soton.ac.uk/java/tutorial/java/javaOO/… –  Ben Hocking May 26 '11 at 12:51
    
@Ben Hocking If subcategories are viewed from the point of inheritance then correct. Although it is a matter of perspective. –  Philoto May 26 '11 at 13:06
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Supercategories may be technically correct, following the -script and -classes analogue, but parent categories sounds better to me in this case. –  Hugo May 26 '11 at 13:24
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@Philoto, I did not mean to imply that subclasses and superclasses were subcategories and supercategories, merely that they followed the same pattern as subscript/superscript that @Third Idiot gave. –  Ben Hocking May 26 '11 at 14:36
    
@Hugo following that reasoning, subcategories should be child categories? –  AttackingHobo May 26 '11 at 18:41
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Movies often have subtitles, translated texts below the picture. When opera productions project translated texts above the stage, they are called surtitles.

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For folders the term parent folder is usually used. And since categories are quite similar to folders, you may want to use parent category for higher-level categories. Or you can use upper-level categories.

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The prefix that springs to mind for me is meta- which I believe I picked up from reading Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. He even uses it as a standalone word.

And coincidentally enough in the RELATED box for this question is the opposite question!

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Hofstadter's later Metamagical Themas (monthly column in Scientic American, subsequently published as a fascinating single-volume) is full of musings where he starts at the 'day-to-day' level, and ends up considering things from some higher 'meta-perspective'. Brilliant graphic on the inside front cover, if you ever come across a copy. –  FumbleFingers Jun 8 '11 at 21:46
    
@Fumble: I actually went out and bought that one after finishing GEB years ago (-: –  hippietrail Jun 8 '11 at 23:26
    
I thought of meta- as well, but it's tied to something that is an abstraction and that might operate under different rules. So while snakes are a subcategory of reptiles, I wouldn't call reptiles a meta-category. –  Wayne Jul 5 '11 at 13:39
    
@Wayne: I think it's just a case of sub- having various opposites depending on the sense and root it's prefixed to and all sorts of stuff. –  hippietrail Jul 6 '11 at 9:07
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Well, there is no defined prefix or word to be an opposite of "sub".

However, the higher level for "subcategories" is simply categories and the lower level is sub-subcategories and to go a third level down is sub-sub-subcategories and so on.

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Welcome to EL&U. You're quite right, for OP's context (categories) it's meaningless to talk about a prefix for a higher-level category than the top one. He just has to go through all lower levels and add an extra sub- to each, since the original category has turned out to be a subcategory! –  FumbleFingers May 26 '11 at 22:54
    
@FumbleFingers: Thank you for taking the effort to explain my answer. I appreciate your input and I am glad to be part of this community. –  Jamie Jun 8 '11 at 18:52
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np - I hope you'll grace our pages more in future. Don't worry too much about where the votes go (or don't, in your case here). Sometimes a more 'interesting' answer does get upvoted over a most 'accurate' one, but that's just democracy in action for you. –  FumbleFingers Jun 8 '11 at 21:37
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