Empty doesn't seem to have a gradable antonym. If something is not empty and not full, then it is not empty, but is there a single word expression for this?


To make it more evident, I'm looking for something like what warm is on the scale of cold and hot.

  • 3
    I'm pretty sure an antonym of empty is full.
    – iterums
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 21:34
  • 4
    Unless I'm missing something, the opposite of "empty" is "full." If something is less than full--and hence, not empty--it is half-full, one-quarter full, two-thirds full, almost empty, etc. So, no, there does not appear to be one word that describes the phenomenon of something's being between empty and full, except maybe the word "when," as in "Let me pour you some coffee. Say when." (She starts to fill up your cup, at which point you say) "When!" Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 21:37
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    I see there is a tendency to down vote if someone has a different understanding of something, or just asks something he knows some answer for. I feel this is a valid question, maybe needs some other wording. Antonym maybe was not a good choice. Whatever. I feel it rude to neglect an opinion without conversation. @rhetorician thank you for the insightful explanation.
    – allprog
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 21:46
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    @allprog you can always edit your question if you realize that it will be misinterpreted.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 21:53
  • 2
    If something is not empty, then it is partly full. I don't think there's any one-word synonym for non-empty and partly full. Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 22:36

2 Answers 2


Sparse and its antonym dense may serve in some contexts, such as mathematics and computer science. For example, a sparse set is a set that has few members out of a large potential population of members. An empty set has no members, and a dense set has many members. However, I can't recall hearing the term full set in this context.

In other contexts, such as "a glass half-full" one would not use sparse or dense.

  • Could you provide a link which backs up your claim that "dense" is the antonym of sparse in the context of mathamatics?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 13:51
  • The Wikipedia article on sparse matrices states "a sparse matrix is a matrix populated primarily with zeros (Stoer & Bulirsch 2002, p. 619) as elements of the table. By contrast, if a larger number of elements differ from zero, then it is common to refer to the matrix as a dense matrix." See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sparse_matrix. Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 3:18
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    The Judy IV Shop Manual - which documents a programming library for storage of word or string indexes - states " hashing is essentially a way of converting sparse, possibly multi-word indexes (such as strings) into dense array indexes". See judy.sourceforge.net/doc/shop_interm.pdf, page 9. Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 3:30
  • It might be a good idea to include that link and quote in your answer. The best answers are usually self-contained.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 4:35

The word 'antonym' needs defining before one can comment sensibly on this sort of question. There are different but related senses.

At http://grammar.about.com/od/ab/g/antonymsterms.htm , one class of antonyms is termed:

... Gradable Antonyms

and defined:

Gradable antonyms include pairs like the following: beautiful - ugly expensive - cheap fast - slow hot - cold increase - decrease long - short love - hate rich - poor sweet - sour wide- narrow These pairs are called gradable antonyms because they do not represent [refer to] an either-or relation but rather a more-less relation. The words can be viewed as terms at the end-points of a continuum or gradient.

Now while empty and full are essentially absolute adjectives, whereas say fast and slow are not, the former are certainly terms which refer to 'the end-points of a continuum or gradient'. They are gradable antonyms.

  • Great explanation, thanks. So you derived that "warm" can exist for "empty"-"full". But does it?
    – allprog
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 22:27

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