Are there general modifiers for adjectives that indicate a gray area between the adjective and its negative?

E.g., "Plywood isn't wooden, but it isn't not-wooden either. Therefore, plywood is ____ly wooden." What goes in the blank?

"Partially" doesn't sound quite right, because it suggests that one piece of the noun really is described by the adjective; I'm looking for a word that places the whole noun in the middle of an adjective-spectrum.

Sorry for the dumb example, but that's just off the top of my head. Better examples would be appreciated as well.

  • 2
    Plywood is sort of wooden.
    – Jim
    May 31 '14 at 4:19
  • There but not quite there.
    – Kris
    May 31 '14 at 5:24
  • Thanks for the answers. I really didn't expect there to be a one-size word for this, but thought I'd throw it out anyway.
    – user77872
    May 31 '14 at 17:45

"Therefore, plywood is quasi-wooden".

"Therefore, plywood is pseudo-wooden".

"Therefore, plywood is semi-wooden".

"Therefore, plywood is only nominally wooden".

  • Yes; these answers address the 'non-X, or at least not completely X, but not unconnected with X' notion I hope is behind the question. May 31 '14 at 8:36

Plywood is somewhat wooden

Plywood is sort of wooden

Plywood is kind of wooden

Plywood is more or less wooden


somewhat (adv.)

1) matters have improved somewhat: a little, a bit, to some extent, (up) to a point, in some measure, rather, quite, some; informal: kind of, kinda, sort of, sorta. ANTONYMS greatly.

2) a somewhat thicker book: slightly, relatively, comparatively, moderately, fairly, rather, quite, marginally.

Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus


In my opinion, it's perfectly accurate to say "plywood is wooden." I know it contains other materials, and since it does, it would be inaccurate to say, "plywood is wood."

Basically, I think you're fine saying "plywood is wooden" though it's not only made of wood.

  • You've hit the nail on the head: by definition, something can't be both X and non-X. And using different polysemes ( It's coffee, but it's not coffee coffee) has to be done with great care. Collins definitions essentially imply that plywood is both wooden and not wooden: wooden 1. (Forestry) made from or consisting of wood. 'Plywood is a wood-based semi-synthetic board material containing other essential materials.' May 31 '14 at 8:31
  • By definition -- yes, but I'm not really looking for a modifier to pin down an "accurate" description as much as one with that definition-evading frustration built in. I suppose that it would be most useful when modifying a more subjective adjective -- perhaps a personality type.
    – user77872
    May 31 '14 at 17:43

I think I would use "somewhat:" in some degree or measure.

Some examples that come to mind:

That video game is somewhat popular; it is not unpopular, but it is not popular.

He uses somewhat proper grammar; it is not proper (perhaps he misuses semi-colons occassionally), but it is not what most people would call improper.

Note, though, that somewhat only weakens the adjective, so it's not a truly gray area.

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