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On top = atop, so is there a similar shorter synonym for at the bottom? Why not abottom?

In general, what are some formal terms describing this issue? How can I find resources on such synonyms?

Afterword: Despite my acceptance of an answer, please feel free to contribute and add answers!
I shall still upvote.

  • "How can I find resources on such synonyms?" -- ELU for one. – Kris Nov 16 '14 at 7:09
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    provide example use case to better get answers. – Espanta Nov 16 '14 at 7:26
  • When used in a figurative sense, synonyms of at the bottom/ at bottom are: basically, essentially. – user66974 Nov 16 '14 at 7:27
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    it bears mentioning that a + locative is productive, and most any word formed this way will be accepted as valid. Thus, one could quite literally say a-bottom. – Dan Bron Nov 16 '14 at 14:57
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    @LawArea51Proposal-Commit Well, kinda the point of my comment that I didn't learn about "a-bottom" anywhere: I knew it was possible because a- +locative is productive. Though that doesn't mean I haven't encountered a-bottom one place or another, and had it lurking in the dark recesses of my mind. Where did I learn the rule about *a-*+locative being productive? For a native speaker, it's intuitive: we generalize it from the fact that we've seen so many many different instances of this occurring. Though there are probably constraints I'm not thinking of. – Dan Bron May 7 '15 at 0:41
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The simplest and best answer may be beneath.

But it's complicated:

First, let's explore atop, which has the meaning of "directly on top of," as in this example:

The house sits atop a hill.

A quick search through concordances (visit www.lextutor.ca to find good concordance tools) revealed that atop is most commonly used for outdoor structures (as in the example) situated in the terrain and for the structures on top of outdoor structures (weather vanes atop barns & air raid sirens atop court houses, to cite a couple of examples that you will find simply by googling "atop"). So you could, if you wanted to, say The book is atop the table with the reasonable expectation that people will understand you, but on the whole "atop" is not a very common word. That said, if you punch "atop" into Google Ngrams, you'll find a gentle rise in occurrence from 1920 to 1975, followed by a relatively steep increase in usage from 1975 to 2000 (interesting to that there is a spike... or more like a hill... in the early 40s). But perhaps I digress.

More to the point: what would an opposite to atop actually mean? If the house sits atop the hill, then would we speculate what lies... abottom the hill?

You might say: well, the house was built on stilts because the homeowner wanted (for whatever reason) to ensure good air circulation ____________ the house. In this case, I think the word beneath is the best fit. And if you look at different definitions of "beneath," you will find that most use the word "directly" or the phrase "in close contact." So that may qualify "beneath" as the opposite of "atop." However, if I wanted to talk about air circulation "above" the house, I'd say just that, not "atop." Because "atop" includes the idea of "attached to" or "sitting directly on" and is used for concrete physical objects, a category that "air" doesn't fit into.

So, we're left looking for a preposition that includes that meaning of direct contact, but for the bottom of things not the top. The predominant image in my mind is that of a barnacle, clinging to the underside of a boat. But I don't think we have a single preposition to describe that clinging simply because of gravity. All of the things that sit "atop" other things do so because doing so obeys the law of gravity. But clinging to the underside of something is simply not common enough, physically, to warrant a preposition.

Now, we haven't entertained the word below as a candidate. "Below," however, indicates a general directional position and does not include the idea of "directly" or "in close contact." The opposite would be "above," which most would agree does not include the same "direct contact" sense of "atop."

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    +1 for the providing the gravitational rationale for why "atop" exists and "abottom" doesn't; physics allows the former to be passive, but the latter must be active. – Dan Bron Nov 16 '14 at 15:06
  • A top is on top. Bottommost is the deepest part of something. Bottommost. In this case, lacking knowledge of some words doesn't mean it doesn't actually exist. (Somewhat similar to invisible pink unicorns, Chuck Norris' tears curing cancer, and the pastafarians.) - abottom is perfectly valid, it's just unused as there can be ambiguity. Atop is specifying a place as well, something's top. Abottom would do the same, but it's not as mouthful. – Sakatox Mar 5 '16 at 11:50
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Bottommost comes to mind.

Definition of bottommost

1 a :  situated at the very bottom :  lowest, deepest
1 b :  last <the bottommost part of the day — Alfred Kazin>

2 :  most basic <the bottommost problems facing the world>

Taken definition of from Merriam-Webster. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bottommost)

Example: "Place it atop the shelf." / "Place it at the bottommost shelf."

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Well, since atop means at the top of, the direct opposite of that word would be below or underneath.

However, since your question is for the phrase at the bottom, this might not be what you're looking for. I couldn't find anything for at the bottom

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This comes to mind:

aground - adj & adv - On the ground

While this term has somewhat nautical connotations, I think it is basically what you are looking for.

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