If I say

"It was happening in the foreground."


"It was happening in the background."

"Foreground" and "background" are examples of locations in some kind of metaphorical space, regardless of what they are foreground or background of. Is there a good word for these sort of "locations" in the abstract, without regard to the medium (visual arts, music, theater, etc) that the foreground and background exist in?

3 Answers 3


I think of foreground and background as planes.

  • This is exactly what I was looking for.
    – jwrush
    Aug 20, 2013 at 13:44

They are relative locations, as opposed to absolute locations. You cannot buy a plane ticket to foreground, but sitting at my desk, the copy holder and my pencil are in the foreground relative to the file cabinet and the wall. The cabinet and wall are in the background relative to the other two items.

If I turn and look out the window, the leaves on the tree are in the foreground relative to the building in the background.

Foreground and background are everywhere- they are relative to each other and relative to the space.

  • 1
    Also, you can't do a foreground check on a prospective employee, but you can do a background check.
    – J.R.
    Aug 19, 2013 at 21:25

would configuration fit the bill?

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