Is there a word for one side in a pair? In a conversation it would the the interlocutor, but I'm looking for a generic term.

  • What about half? That seems generic enough. It can be applied to apples, oranges, quiz teams, or marital relationships. – J.R. Apr 19 '14 at 11:32

The English word for "one of a pair" is in fact "pair". You can ask: "Where is the pair to this shoe?" "Pair" has two meanings.

  • But it is not used in isolation for a single member of the set. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 20 '19 at 19:30
  • @EdwinAshworth. Every member of parliament has a "pair" in the opposite party. – fdb Dec 20 '19 at 19:49
  • Yes, every MP has a pair. This is not 'in isolation'. I can't pick a random element in a set with two members, take it to show it to a friend, and call it a 'pair'. 'One of a pair', yes. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 20 '19 at 19:55

This is one of those occasions when one realizes the unique abilities of each language. English with most number of words among the world languages, does not have a word for each member of a pair. We, hence, use the word "pair" (as in "where is the other pair?") when we mean a member of the pair. In Persian we do not have this problem as there is a word for members of the dyad. The pair or couple is "Joft" (جفت) and each member of that pair is a "lengeh" (لنگه.) Persian also have a word for a mismatched pair: "lengeh be lengeh!"


  • 1
    Good news and bad news. First the good news. I have found an English term for "one side of a pair." That word is "leg" and it is used in the same sense as the Persian "lengeh" (لنگه) In capital markets usually each trade is logged in a pair, one from the buy and the other from the sell side. You would hear a trader in Wall Street saying "yours didn't match my leg" or "where is the other leg of trade?" – Ahmad Sadri Aug 10 '15 at 1:45
  • The bad news is that this is part of a specialized lingo. But the word is also used in common parlance to refer to the two parts of the itinerary of a trip. What makes this truly exciting is that the words "leg" and "leng" are from the same Indo-European root and they mean exactly the same thing: leng means leg. – Ahmad Sadri Aug 10 '15 at 2:06
  • It is not correct to say that leg refers to one of two parts of a trip. It refers to any one part of a multi-part trip. So your trip could have any number of legs, not just two; to find examples, just search for "this trip has three legs" on google books. As far as the use of leg in capital markets, can you provide some sort of a source? All I found is this and this, both of which sound a bit different from what you are saying. – linguisticturn Dec 20 '19 at 17:11

I'm going with "counterpart", as suggested to me off-site. Thanks for the feedback though!

  • That's great. You should still provide a definition and explain why this word particularly met your need. – Kit Z. Fox Apr 21 '14 at 11:47

Until we find a more complicated esoteric word that matches your requirements, try "complement" for a while.

  • Of course something can only be a complement to an aforementioned something else. A boot is not a complement. It's only a complement if you already have the other boot. And then you're still missing a name for that original boot you already have. – RegDwigнt Apr 19 '14 at 12:53
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    Are you saying if I order a double vodka then one vodka must be complementary, sounds like a good idea as long as the barmaid doesn't have an account here. :) – Frank Apr 19 '14 at 14:34
  • Now I've made a pointless quip I've had a thought. If we agree that one of the pair is the other ones complement then surely the 'aforementioned something else' is also the complement of the other one (the original complement). So in fact any pair is made up of two complements, one half of a pair is a complement, the other half is the other complement. – Frank Apr 19 '14 at 14:37

Given that a pair is often referred to by the use of the Greek derived "dyad" you could use "monad" (also derived from the Greek) for a single part of the pair (although monad doesn't specifically describe part of a pair as much as it does a single unit of any kind).




Cugel uses "part" to describe their response, https://english.stackexchange.com/a/164938/227352, so why not just use "part" to describe part of a pair? Everyone knows a pair is only comprised of two objects, so it should be obvious that there could be only two parts.


Odd (Oxford Online Dictionary, def 3): As in the odd glove. Half of a pair.

  • I believe this is the same sense as "odd-man out". This choice is good for many contexts. – Kit Z. Fox Dec 20 '19 at 16:45

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