When responding to questions about multiple subjects, people will simply answer the questions in that order, adding 'respectively' to the end to make it clear which response applies to which subject. I think this is mostly when asking about two people / subjects, but I've heard three and four occasionally.

For example:

How old are Jason and Tommy?

They're 21 and 23, respectively.

However, what if you misspeak, and accidentally say them in the opposite order? Aside from simply correcting yourself, is there a word you can use that would work, while keeping the rest of the sentence the same? As in:

They're 23 and 21, [insert word here].

  • 1
    "cross-identified," maybe?
    – Sven Yargs
    Nov 13, 2014 at 18:54
  • 5
    "In no particular order" is a common phrase used for randomly-arranged data. Nov 13, 2014 at 19:02
  • 3
    I think it is better to correct yourself that to leave the burden of mapping the properties to their objects to the other party.
    – Arsen Y.M.
    Nov 13, 2014 at 19:06
  • Agreed with what @ArsenY.M. says. "Oh wait, the other way around." is the most straightforward way. Recognise the blunder and move on.
    – Amadan
    Nov 14, 2014 at 0:47
  • juxtapositionally technically doesn't work but it sure sounds like it should to me.
    – Mazura
    Nov 14, 2014 at 5:56

9 Answers 9


retrograde (ˈrɛtrəʊˌɡreɪd) adj

-2. (esp of order) reverse or inverse

ˈretroˌgradely adv

© HarperCollins Publishers -thefreedictionary.com

inversely, in·verse·ly, adverb \ˈin-ˌvərs-lē,

1: in an inverse order or manner

© 2014 Merriam-Webster

They're 23 and 21, retrogradely.

They're 23 and 21, inversely.

Exercises in word choice and use are fun but communication is only useful when understood by the recipient. Just start over and say: Jason is 21 and Tommy is 23. This uses less characters than either of my examples, leaves little room for misunderstanding and can easily be translated without error.

Any deviation from the expected idiomatic use of (respectively) is going to cause confusion. Rearrange your sentence to conform to this standard or continue to make my brain hurt unnecessarily.

If for some reason the data makes more sense backwards, at least begin the sentence with the (word) so I know how to arrange the data from its onset.

Retrogradely, they're 23 and 21.

Inversely, they're 23 and 21.

I assume until told otherwise that all data is in respective order, the word appears at the end of a sentence as a mere conformation.

Jason and Tommy are 21 and 23.


I don't think there's a single word for that. But I might try one of these

  • not in that order
  • in reverse order
  • Sorry, got the order wrong.
  • non-respectively
  • 1
    Yes 'disrespectively' wouldn't sound quite right, would it.
    – WS2
    Nov 13, 2014 at 19:38


They're 23 and 21, reversely.

Changes the format slightly.

"The latter is 23."

  • I think reversely is a novel suggestion and it seems to flow well in the given context. That said, it's worth mentioning that when you see reversely in a text, it usually means something more along the lines of on the other hand, as opposed to specifying a corresponding order. For example, from this web page: Technology and trademark rights may be “licensed in” to allow product development, manufacturing, and distribution. Reversely, they can also be “licensed out” as part of a licensing program that monetizes intellectual property rights.
    – J.R.
    Nov 13, 2014 at 19:38
  • Actually, "perversely" may be more appropriate.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 13, 2014 at 23:10

You can use the word irrespectively if the list isn't in any particular order.


  • It's not that it's in a random order, it's that it's in reverse order. Imagine someone asked about the ages of three people, and you listed them, appending "in no particular order". You haven't answered their question, because that leaves them no way to associate which age with which person. Nov 13, 2014 at 21:57

I don't think there is an existing word or phrase to do it, but if you coined "antirespectively," most fluent listeners would probably understand.

  • 2
    I think "disrespectively" has a better ring to it.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 13, 2014 at 23:11
  • 1
    "Dis-" has the right connotation, but you've got "disrespect" in there, a completely unrelated word. Might be confusing for a listener.
    – hoverbikes
    Nov 13, 2014 at 23:31
  • 2
    All the more fun that way.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 14, 2014 at 0:00

'Nonsequentially' I believe meets the criteria here.

In practice however, since this is not a convention and will probably be confusing, I'd just rephrase.


The term collectively may work. From en.wiktionary, it means “In a collection; in a collective manner; together as a whole; bunched together; to be treated as a single unit, rather than the items that make up the collection separately”. Saying “They're 23 and 21, collectively” should suggest to the listener that the ages (or other items in a list) are being presented as a group, a bunch, an unordered set. In some constructions, all told and altogether may work similarly.

  • 1
    Collectively, they're 44.
    – hoverbikes
    Nov 14, 2014 at 0:47
  • @hoverbikes, that's a possible interpretation of the phrase, but ordinarily it would not be so taken. If an intelligent person wanted to talk about total age, they'd say in toto or in sum instead of collectively. Nov 14, 2014 at 1:05

While this question does not seem to be intended as specific to scientific writing, I arrived here for the same question as it pertains to such writing. Often, we will be referring to a relationship between two items and will always list them in respective order for ease of comprehension. However, I just came across a situation in which respective order would confuse comprehension. In the case that anyone arrives here under a similar circumstance, I wanted to share my conclusion after reading these answers and offer this perspective to the discussion. So, for example, I had to write "functions...by the switch from endogenous to exogenous attention, the p3a and p3b subcomponents should map onto those, inversely." I chose this format because to reverse p3a and p3b may incite the reader to think I made a typo and then erroneously correct it for me in their interpretation. However, putting it the way I did, I expect the word "inversely" to assure that no such error is made and that logical presentation order of the related pairs is reverse. I could not reverse endogenous and exogenous attention because they are in chronological order with respect to a process I will not get into here. :)

tl;dr: there is a time and place for "inversely" in this situation.


I think the easiest way to do this would be to use "a". what we are seeking is the antithesis of the word "respectively" and as we all learned in grade school "a" does all that for us. Such as with the words athiest, atypical, asymmetrical, etc. I think that "arespectively" satisfies our intention and has solid footing as far as the rules of grammar are concerned.

  • 1
    Can you provide a reference for the word "arespectively"? That would improve your answer.
    – Drew
    Feb 5, 2017 at 2:46

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