There is an "oligopoly", which is the dominating of the market by a select few businesses. Then there's __, which is when no single business dominates their respective market.

What's that called?

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    This isn't an English question it is an economics question. Commented May 21, 2014 at 6:41
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    If you're writing a newspaper article or something, there's no "one word" opposite but you'd just say "XYZ operates in a competitive market" whereas iphone and samsung are a duopoly, gazprom is a monopoly, and the pharma industry is a oligopoly.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 7:04
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    Logically, the exact opposite would be a polypoly (yes, that looks like the same word repeated twice; but no, it isn’t etymologically) … but that seems to mean something slightly different in business lingo. Commented May 21, 2014 at 8:11
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    Does monopoly have an opposite? Given that monopoly means "market dominated by 1 company". The closest I can think of is "market with an infinite number of companies" although that doesn't feel totally right. It doesn't seem like a useful term anyway Commented May 21, 2014 at 9:42
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    with tongue firmly in cheek: how about a "Non-opoly"? Commented May 21, 2014 at 15:17

9 Answers 9


There is an infrequently used term Polyopoly also sometime spelled Polypoly.


A market situation in which there are no large sellers but many small ones.

  • Took it right out of my mouth.
    – user39425
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 17:30
  • Relatedly, economics literature also uses the term "atomistic" conditions to emphasize that we are still talking about finite numbers of competitors.
    – mfvonh
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 17:53
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    This is precisely the term I would use, although I would spell it polypoly because the root is the Greek word πωλητής meaning "seller." Commented May 22, 2014 at 19:02
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    I would never use this word without immediately defining it after using it.
    – KRyan
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 19:27
  • I think there should be a hyphen between "little" and "used. Commented May 23, 2014 at 5:44

If it's not a monopoly or an oligopoly, then there are a number of companies competing in the market. So it's a competitive market.

  • You're mixing capitalist theory with simple language. Some competitive markets encourage monopolies -- such as, say, the monopoly on running power lines to your home.
    – DougM
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 19:40
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    @DougM: Some free markets encourage monopolies. But can you say a market dominated by a monopoly is competitive? From Wikipedia : [Competition] may also lead to wasted (duplicated) effort and to increased costs (and prices) in some circumstances. In a small number of goods and services, the cost structure means that competition may be inefficient. These situations are known as natural monopoly. Can you show me a source saying that Wikipedia is using these terms incorrectly? Commented May 21, 2014 at 20:56
  • @PeterShor: I'm deleting my comments after the first, as comments aren't for discussion and you're repeating yourself. (And, still, mixing economic theory with plain language.)
    – DougM
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 17:43

A perfect competitive market, if it exists.

perfect competition

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    Many economic theories outside of your basics would argue that a monopoly could be a perfect competitive market. Just because a single business has almost all of the market doesn't mean that the market is unbalanced nor does it mean that adding competitors would be better. Commented May 21, 2014 at 6:43
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    If you want to make extreme examples that may work, but these are exceptions to more general market rules. Perfect competition is not a monopoly market, but as OP mentioned, a context where no economic player dominates, in the sense that all players are price-takers not price-setters.
    – user66974
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 6:50
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    The term competitive market works fine. I don't think there's any reason to add the word perfect. Commented May 21, 2014 at 9:19
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    I guess whether you want the word "perfect" depends on exactly what the OP means by "opposite". If you take his statement "when no single business dominates their respective market" at face value, you shouldn't add the word "perfect". Commented May 21, 2014 at 13:31
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    @RyeɃreḁd, I'd not define the industries you mentioned as cases of efficient monopolies, but I am afraid we are going a bit off-topic in our discussion. If you like I am pleased to discuss with you in a chat room.
    – user66974
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 14:24

Free market: an economic market operating by free competition : an economic condition of unrestricted buying and selling

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    Not necessarily; you can have many businesses in a market without it being free - and vice versa, you could have a perfect free market which is still dominated by one or a few businesses. Commented May 21, 2014 at 9:40
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    A free market with strong economies of scale will naturally tend towards monopoly Commented May 21, 2014 at 10:45
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    How much money do companies spend on marketing, advertising, sales, and so on in the great free market? That is why free markets veer towards monopolies once a sector is stable (most sectors never stabilize). Now free market, unrestricted buying and selling? I will tell you one thing there are restrictions. You have a certain amount of raw goods and product and a certain amount of money to buy product. None of this seems the opposite of monopoly. Certainly different. Commented May 21, 2014 at 14:04
  • I think the discussion about COGS etc diverts the basic difference: a monopolistic market has exclusive control often granted/protected by governmental regulation. A free market may/can have government regulation/interference but all players must abide by the same rule, and no one company is given special privileges
    – Third News
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 14:21

I'd say simply competition. If there is any, there's no monopoly.


Hmm, there very first word I thought of was "fragmented market", see the definition: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/fragmented-market.html

A marketplace where there is no one company that can exert enough influence to move the industry in a particular direction. The market consists of several small to medium-sized companies that compete with each other and large enterprises.

It is not 1 word...


You may want Monopsony which is where there is a single customer, such as a Department of Defence (and those it allows you to sell your military hardware to).

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    This would be better suited as an answer to a different question as the definition does not match the description given in the question.
    – JAB
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 16:41
  • My enconomics class taught that this term was a "monsopoly", although monopsony seems like the more popular term.
    – smcg
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 17:19
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    @JAB I've always seen monopsony as the opposite of monopoly in the sense of market dominance (I work at a defence company, so I see it's effects regularly). It answers the rhetorical question: In a customer-supplier market relationship, who has dominance, and what is the opposite case. Commented May 22, 2014 at 5:41
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    But that rhetorical question was not the one being asked. If anything, I'd consider your word to be the inverse of monopoly rather than the opposite in terms of the question as asked.
    – JAB
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 11:58
  • I'll give you an upvote, since I came to this page by googling "What is the opposite of a monopoly" hoping to find this exact answer.
    – toryan
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 7:10

...this should have been a comment to polyopoly, but I don't have the points, so here is in support of polyopoly:

The Web is the board for a new game Phil Salin called “Polyopoly.” As Phil described it, Polyopoly is the opposite of Monopoly. The idea is not to win a fight over scarce real estate, but to create a farmer’s market for the boundless fruits of the human mind.


But I should say, that OED did not recognize it as a word:

No dictionary entries found for ‘polyopoly’.


A Common / The Commons


excerpt :

" A common is a shared resource managed by a community who create rules to make the resource durable. The resource can't be monopolised by one or a group of individuals, it has to be as opened as possible. The resource is not private or public, it's a third thing : a common. "


And what concerns private enterprise, profit generated from the hoarding / private enclosure of what is to be considered our commons ( any knowledge, natural resources, land, ... ) can IMHO be considered a Georgist approach to taxation


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