I'm a software developer, and making a peer code review, I've encountered with the word unsetup used in the context to uninitialize some stuff. I was wondering if this is an actual word in English, or it is just an invention.


  • 3
    Did you find the word in any dictionaries? Have you encountered it more than once, from otherwise "competent" speakers? Jul 30, 2013 at 19:31
  • 1
    The "un-" prefix functions independently in English. Not every possible use is listed in dictionaries, because so many verbs and adjectives can potentially take "un-" that it would blow up the U section disproportionately to list them all. Dictionaries are simple word lists and do not have good coverage of the creative possibilities of language morphology, for good reasons. So the idea that only those words are legitimate which appear in dictionaries is very parochial.
    – Kaz
    Jul 30, 2013 at 19:57
  • "Unsetup" is just as valid as "uninitialize."
    – oosterwal
    Jul 30, 2013 at 22:56

4 Answers 4


Normally the opposite of a set-up is a tear-down.

  • 2
    And this is used in computing, by those who are literate. Set up the session/connection/object framework/whatever. Then, tear it down.
    – Kaz
    Jul 30, 2013 at 19:51
  • Personally, I would say you destroy a session/connection/object when you reverse the act of initialising it (‘unsetup’ it). I have never seen anyone use the term “tearing down a session”, but session.destroy() and its derived phrasing is extremely common. Jul 31, 2013 at 2:05
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet Setup–teardown is the standard terminology in software testing frameworks. Construction–destruction and initialization–finalization are other common terms for the same concept in other contexts. Jul 31, 2013 at 10:51
  • For frameworks, I agree (which is why I didn't include that it the list). I wouldn't use it for sessions, connections, or objects, though, just like I wouldn't use construction/destruction of a session, but of an object. For connections, I would use initialise/finalise (or set up/destroy). My point was just that teardown is not the standard antonym to setup in all coding respects. Jul 31, 2013 at 11:13
  • 1
    @BraddSzonye I also use setup with cleanup. I like the parallelism :) tchrist, +1!
    – WendiKidd
    Aug 1, 2013 at 16:30

While creating a new word is perfectly OK, and quite common in technology in particular, unsetup is not an existing word in current common use.


Unsetup as an adjective, meaning 'not (yet) assembled', would be comprehensible. You appear to want a verb the opposite of set up, and the problem there is that it has no opposite in normal parlance, so there is no word for it. Similarly, there is an adjective uncreated, but no word *uncreate (though destroy does the job most of the time).


Un is a prefix when placed in front of some nouns, adverbs, participles and adjectives means; "not", "the opposite to" and "contrary to"

Unhappy = not happy; uncertain = not certain; unlucky = not lucky; unhelpful = not helpful etc.

Unsetup (if it existed)= not setup. Which is nonsensical, if you think about it. To setup means

the act or process of installing (computer software or hardware)

Once a computer programme is setup it cannot revert to not setup The programme can be on or off, it can be working or broken but you cannot create the opposite of the noun, setup, by adding the prefix, un. You need a different word.

  • Un- does not mean ‘not’ when prefixed to verbs. ‘To undo’ does not mean ‘not to do’. Rather, it means ‘reverse the doing and cancel it out’. Similarly, ‘unsetup’ means ‘void the setup that has been performed’. The sense of ‘setup’ used here is not quite the same as what you quote; the notion of ‘un-setupping’ does make sense here, the things set up can be reverted to a not set up state. Jul 31, 2013 at 2:00
  • @JanusBahsJacquet collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/… and thefreedictionary.com/un- and ask.com/question/what-does-the-prefix-un-mean ( I could go on) all confirm that "un" as a prefix means "not" when placed in front of adjectives, nouns etc. Among the examples I cited, none are verbs. SETUP (one word) instead is a noun according to: thefreedictionary.com/setup and merriam-webster.com/dictionary/setup
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 31, 2013 at 5:19
  • But, I was wrong to say: "you cannot create the opposite of setting something up" I should have phrased the concept differently.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 31, 2013 at 5:23
  • I'm convinced, however, that the asker here is using it as a verb (adding un- to the phrase ‘set up’ would presumably univerbate it), since that makes most sense, and since he writes “in the context to uninitialize some stuff”. Jul 31, 2013 at 11:06
  • Yes, I'm pretty convinced too. That's why I've explained as simply as possible, why a word such as, unsetup, cannot exist and does not exist. If the definition of setup is the one found in dictionaries then he needs a different word to convey the opposite meaning. If instead he wants or uses it as a verb then that's up to him.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 31, 2013 at 11:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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