Exceed is commonly used, but when I found myself wanting to use the opposite I couldn't really find a single word that would do it.

fall short of and inadequate are a little off.
How about deceed?

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    I'm a user and proponent of deceed, so I recommend it in all cases. Neologisms can hardly be bad if they're both obvious and genuinely useful. I'm only posting this as a comment because this is something of a stylistic question, and if you're looking for more common alternatives, the other answers have them.
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 18:33
  • I'm using deceed in a engineering context because I don't like the sad emotion connotation of the alternatives. We collect amplitude readings exceeding 17 dBm and take the average of those exceeding values. Noise amplitude readings LESS than the annoying threshold should not be called underwhelming! Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 18:20
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    I would have said "fall short of" – I don't see why it doesn't work. Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 13:12

6 Answers 6


There are a handful of options depending on context:

They have exceeded expectations

They have missed expectations

They have eluded expectations

You have exceeded the limit

You are under the limit

You are beneath the limit

Profits exceed costs

Costs exceed profits

Profits are below costs

Profits did not meet costs

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    I particularly like the cost:profit example and hadn't thought of inverting the relationship of what was being exceeded, i.e. "Expectations exceeded his capabilities."
    – mfg
    Commented Mar 31, 2011 at 12:54
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    "Falling below" would be fitting for this (6 year old) list.
    – Steeven
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 14:44

Latin roots: exceed or excessus (surpass, go above, go beyond, go over, top, beat).

Latin roots: recede or recedere (move away, retreat, withdraw, drawback, draw away).


Maybe this is one of the cases where the context helps a bit to choose the correct expression. In evaluations it often says "below expectation / meets expectation / exceeds expectation (choose one)".

In a sentence, I'd be inclined to use:

Tom has exceeded our expectations, but Jim has fallen behind.

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    It seems a bit of a mixed comparison. I would be inclined to give each man his own sentence.
    – Sam
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 16:18

Underwhelm is one of my favorites as it is so thoroughly an antonym of overwhelm, which could take the place of exceeded expectations.

If you need to use expectations I would have to default to longer expressions like did not satisfy, fell short. Exceed, coming from excess, has no direct-sounding antonym that carries its connotation that feels natural to me.


If you wanted to be glib and Jim was know to be underwhelming, you could say that Jim met your expectations. To be followed up with, and that is why we have decided to terminate his service with our company.


You might go with "underperformed".

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