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

What is a word or phrase that expresses the idea of purposely making something seem better by comparison? For example, lemon Starburst was created to make the cherry flavor seem that much tastier.

share|improve this question
Is there something about by comparison that you don't like, or are you just looking for alternatives? – Cameron Apr 21 '12 at 23:18
The latter. I asked the question because I keep on thinking there is a more specific term that I just can't remember. – jsuissa Apr 21 '12 at 23:41
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The name for something that is used to make something else look different by comparison is a foil:

foil, noun. Anything that serves by contrast of colour or quality to adorn another thing or set it off to advantage.

The presence of a foil induces a cognitive bias known as a contrast effect.

I'm not aware of any terms that mean to create a foil or to induce a contrast effect.

share|improve this answer

Watson is a perfect foil for Holmes because his relative obtuseness makes Holmes's deductions seem more brilliant.

[Britannica Online]

(emphasis mine.)

share|improve this answer


The lemon starburt differentiated cherry from other flavors.

share|improve this answer

You can say something like: "The lemon Starburt was created to make cherry flavor seem tastier by comparison."

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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