Is there a term for the sensation of lifting an object that is unexpectedly lighter than it appeared? For instance, picking up a can that you thought was full but was actually empty. The can seems to jump up weightlessly in your hand.

Does English have a specific word or term for this experience/event?

  • What a great question! sort of a "false lift" feeling.
    – Fattie
    Sep 27, 2014 at 9:53
  • I'd use "relief" Sep 27, 2014 at 21:22

2 Answers 2


The size-weight illusion can explain the sensation you are describing:

  • The size–weight illusion, also known as the Charpentier illusion, is named after the French physician Augustin Charpentier because he was the first to demonstrate the illusion experimentally.

  • These illusions can all be described as contrast with the expected weight. The expected weight or density can be measured by matching visible and hidden weights, lifted in the same manner.

  • An early explanation of these illusions was that people judge the weight of an object from its appearance and then lift it with a pre-determined force. They expect a larger object to be heavier and therefore lift it with greater force: the larger object is then lifted more easily than the smaller one, causing it to be perceived as lighter.

Source: wwww.en.m.wikipedia.org


Merrion Webster has an entry for Overlift; To lift an object too much (or too high)

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overlift (£$€)

enter image description here

As in, 'I thought the can was full so I overlifted it'

  • I would like to mark yours as the answer but that link is paywalled. Could you copy and paste it here? Sep 27, 2014 at 11:21
  • 1
    You can see a real-world usage here; reynoldstechnology.biz/assets/pdf/rtl_2010_moto_tech.pdf "So pleased were Reynolds with the results that showed its frame weighing in at 6.9kg, a full 1.5kg lighter than the previous one, that it was taken to the 2009 Manx GP for public display. Everyone who picked it up ‘overlifted’ it and was very surprised by the weight, or lack of it"
    – Richard
    Sep 27, 2014 at 11:43
  • Spectacular answer and find, Richard. (BTW another totally awesome example of "insane voting on this site." You provide the SWR answer of the week and someone .. downvotes it!)
    – Fattie
    Sep 27, 2014 at 12:09
  • @JoeBlow - I'm assuming it was DV'd because the link is paywalled.
    – Richard
    Sep 27, 2014 at 12:22
  • 1
    If someone perceives an undeserved DV on another person's post, there's an little icon that can be clicked to mitigate the effect. Just sayin'. Sep 27, 2014 at 14:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.