Two words A and B are synonyms if they mean the same thing, and antonyms if they mean opposite things. But is there a word to describe the relationship where A means "neither B nor its opposite"?

For example: "Indifference" means "neither love nor hate".

I would like to be able to use it in sentences of the form: "What is a `neutralnym' for love?"

(The wikipedia page for the -onym suffix says that "anonym" is already taken, sadly, as this would have been a good neologism. That's why I used "neutralnyms" even though it mixes Latin and Greek roots.)

Edit: A further more example to illustrate what I am asking.

right and wrong are antonyms, and ambiguous is a neutralnym of both.

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    Chliaronym might work. χλιαρός = tepid.
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 30, 2013 at 12:20
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    What purpose would the word serve? All it'd do is tell the reader/listener that A was neither an antonym nor a synonym of B but that it was totally unrelated. Saying that "'Indifference' means 'neither love nor hate'" is so much clearer than "'Indifference' is a 'neutralnym' (or 'othernym') of 'love & hate'". Calling one word a synonym of another means that it's "another name (word)" for the same meaning; calling it an antonym means that it's "another name (word)" for the opposite meaning: semantically related words. "Neutralnym" is an unneeded absurdity.
    – user21497
    Apr 30, 2013 at 12:30
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    Aren't all words (except for hate and its synonyms) neutralnyms for love in your example? Apr 30, 2013 at 12:57
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    @Kris and SmokerAtStadium, I think you've switched my quantifiers around a bit. It isn't 'neither (means same) nor (means opposite)', but rather 'means (neither same nor opposite)'. The first version would logically include any number of irrelevant things. But no one would say that "Water means neither love nor hate". Apr 30, 2013 at 13:49
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    To put it another way, a word and its antonym define two antipodes, and if you interpolate between them, then a 'neutralnym' is a word that's right in the middle. Another example: right and wrong are antonyms, and ambiguous is a neutralnym of both. While water is neither right nor wrong, it certainly isn't a neutralnym of either. Apr 30, 2013 at 14:23

2 Answers 2


Word pairs like love and hate, right and wrong are gradable antonyms:

A gradable antonym is one of a pair of words with opposite meanings where the two meanings lie on a continuous spectrum. Temperature is such a continuous spectrum so hot and cold, two meanings on opposite ends of the spectrum, are gradable antonyms. Other examples include: heavy, light; fat, skinny; dark, light; young, old; early, late; empty, full; dull, interesting.

The words you're looking for are midway along the spectrum between gradable antonyms, so medionym would be a good neologism. However, there's another way of looking at this.

Love (in the sense of passion or ambition) is also the opposite of indifference – just in a different direction from the love–hate spectrum. Likewise for right and ambiguous. The words you're talking about are still antonyms, of a special sort that is opposite to both ends of a spectrum. A good name for this would be orthogonal antonym, to reflect that it is “perpendicular” to gradable antonyms.

  • Thanks for the suggestion of medionym (also suggested by Jo Bedard above) and for the clarification that this would only apply to gradable antonyms. I still wonder if there is an already existing word to describe this concept. May 1, 2013 at 0:09
  • @SteveFlammia Yes, thanks to Jo Bedard! I was primarily thinking along the orthogonal antonym line, but I realized that medionym was an equally good way of thinking of it. I'm not aware of any existing word, other than antonym (just in a different direction). May 1, 2013 at 0:14

What about trigonal antonym? Trigonyms? (such that there are three relationships interfacing, each of which is on an individually gradeable spectrum) So, instead of defining the relationship as perpendicular, each scales between the three equidistant points...for the record I also fully approve of the medionym concept! There is merit to the orthogonal antonym concept, just expanding the conversation in a slightly different direction :)

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