7

If something positive is "too much", it becomes negative. For example, too much security could be perceived as being trapped.

Is there a term for this relation? In other words, if a word with a similar meaning is called a synonym, and a word with the opposite meaning is called an antonym, then a word with a negative extreme relation is called a ___?

Is there any kind of thesaurus to look these up?

  • OK. Gotcha. Good question. I have a feeling though, there may not be a pair of words describing the phenomenon you're describing as neatly as the antonym/synonym pair does. Furthermore, the phenomenon you describe is more difficult to describe than the much simpler "opposite of" and "same as." I'll play around with it, though. Don – rhetorician Feb 12 '14 at 21:05
  • Hm. It took me a while to get it, too. Still, while someone might have come up with a term for the relation, I think it applies to pretty much every word so I doubt there's a specific term for the word itself. Just like there is no special term for "a word that has a synonym". It's just a word. – RegDwigнt Jul 4 '14 at 23:48
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    Too is a negative word; it triggers negative polarity items like any or ever: He's too much for anybody to handle. So too much X means 'so much X that not S', where S is some consequence that cannot happen because of a surfeit of X. – John Lawler Aug 4 '14 at 2:19
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    In real life, I'm not sure how helpful describing the relationship between adjectives and their extreme counterparts would be, but since hypernym is already taken, I wold propose a neologism: hypermalonym a word bad in extremity. Its partner would be hypomalonym a word ban in deficiency. – ScotM Apr 21 '15 at 2:58
  • It may just be a negated word. The sense of any word (or perhaps just any adjective?) can be inverted. E.g. coloured vs not coloured. – Lawrence Jul 30 '16 at 16:03
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I do not believe that a grammatical term exists for that. Terms like "synonym" and "antonym" exist because they describe relationships between words. On the other hand, the idea of something overly large or numerous describes an actual real-life condition. That falls within the province of vocabulary rather than grammar.

In other words, if someone told you "I am thinking of a word that is an antonym," you would have no way of guessing the word they were thinking of. However, if someone told you "I am thinking of a word that describes something undesirably plentiful," you could very reasonably guess "excessive." There is no need for a grammatical term for that relation; it is contained within the word itself, and not a relationship between words. The term "excessive" is the description for the condition it describes.

1

There are words that deal with the varying degrees or scales of things but the generic term is simply "quantity". The most appropriate phrase for a quantity that starts causing problems is, simply, "too much".

Too much "security" is a "trap"

Too much "medicine" is "poison"

It isn't very romantic but it exactly matches your intended meaning. Aside from that, the word you are looking for would be anything else that describes a "greater" or "more powerful" form of a smaller thing. Mixing in the negative connotations and you get options such as:

  • overabundance
  • tipping point
  • surfeit
  • hedonistic

And so on.

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Juste milieu, the golden mean, is the the antonym of what you seek and as such something like ultra-milieu should confer the sense that it is an amount in excess.

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It's the same as "priceless" or "invaluable" having a positive meaning, in spite of the negative affixes. You could look this up in a treaty on semantics.

  • Uh, you mean "treatise" on semantics? Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Don – rhetorician Feb 12 '14 at 0:43
  • There is a treatise on semantics that deals with priceless and invaluable among others. – John Lawler Aug 4 '14 at 2:17

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