Should it be apposed or opposed in testing for non failure as apposed to success?

I initially thought it should be apposed, because opposed seems to suggest opposition. Interestingly Chromium flags apposed as an unknown word!

6 Answers 6


It should be "opposed". "Apposed" would mean sitting next to each other instead of diametrically opposed, as failure and success are.

  • 4
    And "apposed" is a very rare word anyway, except as an error for "opposed". You are right that it suggests opposition: you are positing two opposite possilibilities.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 28, 2011 at 12:56
  • @Colin Fine: That is true. I've actually never even heard it used until I wrote it for this answer.
    – Robusto
    Feb 28, 2011 at 13:37
  • And then there is "apposite". @ColinFine, the only public occurrence of this word I have ever heard is in one of the Star Trek movies (ST 6: The Undiscovered Country) in which Lt. Valeris suggests Romulan ale to be served at the dinner hosted on the Enterprise for the Klingon Chancellor and his associates. Capt. Kirk responds: "Apposite suggestion, Lieutenant!" see --> en.wiktionary.org/wiki/apposite Jun 24, 2014 at 23:43
  • 1
    Apposite is a very familiar word to me, unlike apposed.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 25, 2014 at 18:30

Most people won't know the word appose, but Robusto's answer is correct here, and Ben is wrong.

Both words ultimately derive from Latin positum - to put, but imported separately from French - which added the a- prefix ("towards") to give appose. The Latin ob- prefix ("against") became oppose.

Appose originally meant to apply (as, a seal to a document), but now it means to lay alongside or in proximity (as, the cut edges of a wound being stitched up). It's a rare word which as Colin Fine says is more likely to occur as an error for "opposed" than to be used correctly outside of specialised formal contexts where it only refers to spatial proximity of physical objects.

Oppose has a long history of use with a broad stretch of meaning, ranging from deadly feuds to mundane comparisons (as OP's example, definition 3: to contrast or counterbalance).

Those who feel they can justify using apposition in the "metaphorical" sense of critical juxtaposition of concepts are simply mistaken. The purpose of language is to communicate effectively: not one in ten readers would apprehend the significance of the a- prefix meaning alongside, as opposed to the o- prefix meaning opposite, in contrast. It would be poor use of language to thus confuse them.


In medicine, it has been the practice to use appose when referring to bringing surfaces together — as in “the left lower lid was well apposed to the globe.” Or there was “good apposition of the thumb and index finger.”


If I prefer drinking tea from a red mug rather than a green mug then I might say "I drank tea from a red mug as opposed to a green one." However, if I was red/green colour blind I would have no preference so I'd say "I drank tea from a red mug as apposed to a green one." I've always thought that the use of apposed communicates a choice whereas the use of opposed not only communicates that choice but also shows it is the preferred one.

  • This is completely wrong. Please consult a dictionary.
    – Zairja
    Nov 2, 2012 at 19:13

I'd like to add my support for apposed. Examples such as "I prefer coffee as opposed to tea" may be correct but I think it would be rarely used. In this context it means you are choosing 1 thing that is opposite to another. I believe most people would just say something like "I prefer coffee instead of tea".

I believe the more common and possibly more correct use of "as a/opposed to" is when you are comparing 2 similar things and are emphasizing the difference, such as the OPs example. "non failure" and "success" are similar but not identical. By comparing 1 to the other you emphasize the difference. "You should be testing for non failure as apposed to success."

  • So you think people mean "You should be testing for non-falure next to success"? That's not what they mean. Dec 3, 2013 at 9:50
  • Not literally but then the same could be said of "You should be testing for non failure opposite of success.". It's more like "You should be testing for non failure which, although it's similar, is different from success.". Point being, it's more about comparing. You compare things side by side. I don't see how the word 'oppose' can apply.
    – user58741
    Dec 4, 2013 at 16:47
  • I see what you mean, but the idiom is "as opposed to" it's not "as apposed to". Dec 4, 2013 at 17:23
  • For what it's worth, here are some definitions for 'apposed' that include 'as apposed to' in their examples. dictionary.reference.com/browse/apposed, finedictionary.com/Apposed.html, glosbe.com/en/en/apposed.
    – user58741
    Dec 6, 2013 at 2:33
  • Those examples seem to imply that the person writing doesn't know what apposed means. They all indicate opposition, not apposition. I suppose perhaps a new meaning to appose is emerging. Dec 6, 2013 at 10:41

I don't believe that Robusto's answer is correct.

Dictionaries say that 'appose' suggests placing two ideas/objects side by side (juxtaposing) in an attempt to analyze their differences (and similarities).

Consider Adam's example: the difference between "non-failure" and "success". These are obviously NOT opposite things. They are rather non-identical concepts that can be better understood through their comparison alongside one another (juxtaposition) (as Adam is doing).

Another example (my own, which led me to the internet looking for an apposed/opposed solution): "the broader consequences of ASEAN in the southeast Asian political—as apposed to economic—system should not be overlooked"

So, it is 'apposed' not 'opposed'.

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