I am creating an application that has a small panel that has an "expand" button. When the user expands it, he will be able to shrink it again.

What would be the best antonym of "expand" to use here?I don't think "shrink" is the most formal one.

I have found "diminish", "compress", "lessen", "narrow" and "shrink" but I'm not 100% which one of these would fit best on my case.

Edit: This has nothing to do with programming. I just mentioned where I'll be using the word, so as to help me find the correct antonym.

  • This is a User Experience (UX) question, and so the answer depends on (1) the natural language in use, and (2) the software type and operating system. You want to leverage users' expectations. It's not a question you can answer from a dictionary. Try your question at ux.stackexchange.com.
    – Dogweather
    Dec 31, 2013 at 0:00
  • 6
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about naming an element in a user interface, rather than about the English language. Dec 31, 2013 at 0:18
  • 1
    If you were a programmer or a software quality assurance person, you would realise the linguistic issue here rather than just a name for a button. It is not off-topic. Dec 31, 2013 at 5:11

5 Answers 5


In .Net languages, the standard terminology for the opposite of expand is collapse.


Reduce Become smaller or less in size, amount, or degree

If when you click on the "button" the panel is still visible but shrunken in size reduce would explain its purpose. It's a perfectly acceptable antonym for expand.


Contract?? That's my guess. Good luck!

  • 1
    Problem with 'contract' is that it has an altogether different, legal meaning. Punters may be reluctant to click on a 'contract' button for fear they were entering a legal obligation. Perhaps?
    – WS2
    Dec 30, 2013 at 23:04
  • What about "minimize?"
    – user60932
    Dec 30, 2013 at 23:40

I agree with user60932 that the most direct contrast with "expand" is "contract", but has a legal connotation, as WS2 points out. ("minimize" suffers from having an altogether different sense in computing contexts: to "minimize" a window - I reckon you don't want that on your button!)

If "contract" is to be avoided, then my inclination would be to go with "shrink". The meaning ought to be common enough from the film title, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, even if that's "shrunk" rather than "shrink"! It also has the advantage of being unambiguous.

In fact, WordNet gives only "shrink" and "contract" for the meaning "become smaller" and the antonym of "expand", so one of those seems the best bet.


The correct term is "Collapse". This comes from the use of file structure trees (folders in modern speak). You "Open" a "Folder" to view it's contents, but "Expand" a "Directory"/"Folder" to "Explore" it. Expanding many Folders (it a tree) can look messy, so to keep things tidy, we Collapse them as necessary. The act of Expanding and Collapsing has to do with the "Branching" nature of these "Tree" structures.

It's also a good word for the action, since "contract" would suggest squashing, where "Collapsing" suggests 'folding up' almost like an accordion, where any amount of branching subfolders will be Collapsed back into a particular Directory or Folder.

Further evidence of this use can be seen in early versions of Microsoft Word's Document Map. The term Expand and Collapse are used to navigate sections and sub sections of the document. It is from this origin, that the term has become accepted universally as the correct antonym of "Expand".

Today, all program code can be expanded or collapsed to make sections of code easier to read (another suitable place for it since all programming code tends to have branching characteristics).

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