I'm looking for the opposite word to "indent." Is it "outdent", or is it "unindent"?

Corresponding to "Tab" and "Shift Tab" in most editors.

  • 7
    It isn't clear what you want the word to mean; "outdent" and "unindent" have two different meanings which can both be taken to be the opposite of "indent". Is the opposite of a "hill" a "plain" or a "valley"? Feb 3, 2014 at 2:14
  • I think you're looking for unformatted or unindented. That is not formatted or indented respectively. But, perhaps you mean a margin or a gutter margin? Feb 3, 2014 at 3:36
  • 1
    Partly due to the popularity of Microsoft and Adobe, outdent is commonly used in commercial text editors. In my experience, though, unindent (often hyphenated) is used to describe the Shift + Tab key combo in Sublime, Eclipse, and TEX. I always say un-indent since outdent also refers to a specific formatting, called a hanging paragraph.
    – emsoff
    Feb 3, 2014 at 3:43
  • 3
    Indent in to the right of margin, outdent is to the left of margin, but unindent is to undo an indent. Newb is right in his answer. Both outdent & unindent are used, and have different meanings. jiyinyiyong, These are not words used in general English writing. Please refer to your software Help, or Google the definitions.
    – Kris
    Feb 3, 2014 at 8:30
  • @PeterShor I misunderstood these words. It's unindent here as the only anwser said. Feb 4, 2014 at 7:59

6 Answers 6


Corresponding to "Tab" and "Shift Tab" in most editors.

In that case you'll want unindent, as it reverses the indent action, and as outdent refers to a (usually left-) hanging block of text.


Dedent or corrupted Outdent is correct. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dedent

(Disclaimer: The following is "from what I know")

Latin in- (alt. im-) is a prefix, not to be confused with the english word in (which is just shorthand for inside/inward/within). But we do commonly confuse the two, which is why Outdent is a valid word.

The prefix in-, when used with verbs, signifies "what is being done unto" rather than "what we do". (i.e. the object's perspective, figuratively "from itself/within", which is probably why people confuse the two words).

When used with a noun or adjective, in- is typically a negator or declaration of absence (unless it's a verbal noun/adjective, in which case the verb dictates the meaning). This is similar to how the - sign in math is used to describe a negative number (i.e. inactive/inaction "not active/acting" or implosive/imposing "negatively explosive/exposing", which showcases another reason why we mistake in for in-, because an implosion is effectively an "inwards explosion").

Here it becomes even more confusing, because we often use latin verbs as nouns and adjectives (because the english syntax, and thus vocabulary, is different from the latin one). So while the noun for the verb import should, for instance, be importation or importment, we just say "an import" or "something imported" instead. Neither importation or importment are correct english words, afaik.

I.e. indent means "to have toothed into", whereas noun dent means "tooth" and verb edent means "to tooth into". However, edent is not a valid english word because indent or dent is used instead. Because, you know, reasons... "To tooth" is a figurative way of saying to strike, blow, or sink into.

In other words, indent isn't even a noun, but a verb that we sometimes use as a noun. The correct noun of indent, in english, is indentation or indentment. There's no such thing as "an indent".

Another way to explain the logic is that you cannot technically dent something "the other way" because a dent is still a dent, and it's either there or it's not. Running is similar - you can change your direction, but you'll still be running.

Other words: Invent/event, invoke/evoke, Inject/eject, Involve/evolve http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Latin_words_with_English_derivatives


The opposite of indent is outdent, according to Christopher Hoot, graduate of Yale University and graphic design instructor at the University of Akron.

Outdent is modelled on indent, replacing in with its opposite, out.

It refers to multident -> multiple “dents” in a paragraph.

Example usage:

You may choose to indent or outdent this paragraph or line of type.

Verb outdent is to indent negatively, bring towards the margin.

By default, the summary tasks are bold and outdented, and the subtasks are indented beneath them.

You can also use de-indent.



Ex and out have the same meaning, so exdent has exactly the same meaning as outdent (an outward space) and it was used commonly in my typography work. Un means to reverse something, undo the indent, or effectively zero it out--no indent at all, either in or out. So exdent or outdent are the words you seek, with outdent more commonly used and understood.


-dent- meaning tooth? --indent-- bite mark It is a version of a hanging indent folks (hanging tooth). I realize that all words are made up at one point or another, but outdent? A different approach is needed for this. A hanging intent moves the rest of your paragraph in by the distance of 1 tab. So that is technically not what we are after.

We also can't use relationship closer to the margin because in most cases (except that of hanging indent) we are not moving closer . . . but rather into the margin.

Would it then become a extradent? Alternatively why not protrusion+indent= prodent? If the opposite of a dent in English is a bump or a bubble then why not go there? Bumpdent?

We could say "tab left" or "negative tab" or even "hanging tooth" and have a much more accurate descriptor. I just can't get behind outdent.


Upon more reflection on this topic I propose the following terminology:

  • Dent (same as indent): Add space such that the line starts further inside the surrounding text block.
  • Bump (same as outdent): Remove space such that the line starts further outside the surrounding text block.

This follows from the fact that a bump is the opposite of a dent.

"Please dent line 13", "We should really bump this block".

Of course this is partially a joke, seeing as "bumping" something can already mean a few things.

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