Is it possible to use the word capsize for cars? As an example,

The car has been capsized and hit the wall.

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    Your example is in the passive voice, it suggests a deliberate action that someone or something turned the car upside down, and as such it sounds a bit odd. The verb to capsize does not mean to turn upside down. Cars can overturn, flip or roll over. – Mari-Lou A Feb 17 '15 at 9:57
  • Actually, @Mari-LouA, I think it does mean to turn upside down as an intuitive part of the process of sinking in the water :-) Like cars, boats really only function well in a narrow range of vertical orientation. – ScotM Feb 17 '15 at 10:40
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    @ScotM Oh yes, you're right. Silly me! The term cap derives from capa and capo which means head in Italian, so, yes, the "head" of the ship turns downwards or over. I was thinking of sinking and then I got caught up with the passive voice in the OP's sentence. – Mari-Lou A Feb 17 '15 at 11:18
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    Rolled over: "I'm rolling over a Ford Explorer, that I overrolled before..." – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 17 '15 at 14:03
  • "Overturned" is what I've usually heard. (I have heard "capsized" once or twice, but generally with a bit of a wink.) – Hot Licks Feb 17 '15 at 21:26

The definition of capsize refers to boats:



[NO OBJECT] 1 (Of a boat) be overturned in the water:

The word picture of capsize is sink by the head:


1780 (transitive); 1792 (intransitive), a nautical word of obscure origin,

perhaps (as Skeat suggests) from Spanish capuzar "to sink by the head,"

from cabo "head," from Latin caput (see capitulum).

For sense, compare French chavirer "to capsize, upset," faire capot "capsize;" Provençal cap virar "to turn the head." Related: Capsized; capsizing.

You might be able to use capsize metaphorically, but there are probably simpler ways to draw an explicit word picture:

The car flipped over and hit the wall.

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    Yes. I have never heard of a car capsizing. They overturn, or roll over. – WS2 Feb 17 '15 at 9:31
  • @ScotM ,Thank you very much. All i need is a name for a process in my algorithm which generates an alarm when the car flips over. But to be honest with you, i didn't like very much the words, turn over or even flip over, therefore i thought of the word CAPSIZE, as you mentioned, i can use this word metaphorically , more general for vehicles, am i right? – user3506463 Feb 17 '15 at 10:11
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    If this is just about an invisible label in a computer program, why worry about if it fits :-) If we assume the algorithm prefers a single word, then flip, overturn, roll and zacepis might all work just as well as 40639. The nice thing about talking is you can say anything you want. What others hear is the rub. – ScotM Feb 17 '15 at 10:24
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    To be fair, I wouldn't be surprised to see a car capsize, provided it was already floating downriver. – user867 Feb 18 '15 at 5:03
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    That is a fair consideration :-) although it seems most cars might be more likely to float upside down from the start. – ScotM Feb 18 '15 at 14:25

To capsize is to overturn, and it usually happens to boats. Anything overturning in a body of water can be said to capsize. (vocabulary.com)

  • The crew of a 12-foot skiff bail out after their boat capsized.

  • The car overturned and hit the wall

  • The car tipped over and hit the wall.
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    Cars turn turtle.Boats Capsize. – weakphoneme Feb 17 '15 at 9:39
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    Boats can turtle too. When the distinction is made between capsizing and turtling, the former tends to represent rolling onto its side and the latter complete inversion so that the mast/deck points straight down into the water. – niemiro Feb 17 '15 at 13:15
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    @niemiro is right e.g. see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtling_%28sailing%29 – A E Feb 17 '15 at 14:25
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    Yeah, I've definitely seen a sailboat turtle (from very close up). Righting a boat from that position is "interesting". – Hot Licks Feb 17 '15 at 21:26

Short answer: no, cars "roll", "roll over" or "overturn".

"Capsize" refers to boats turning over in the water. There are a small number of convertible boat-car-things and you could use "capsize" to talk about one of those rolling over in boat-mode. On the other hand, such things tend to have such low centres of gravity that I imagine a capsize would be extremely unlikely in practice.

I suppose that if somebody crashed their (ordinary) car into water and it then rolled over, you could say that the car had capsized but that would sound strange to my ear (not that I'm any kind of expert in talking about secondary mishaps occurring to floating cars).

  • I think the "secondary mishap" usage would work quite well -- it makes it clear that the car became upside down in the water, while "roll (over)" doesn't guarantee 180°, though "overturn" does, but neither says that it happens in the water. But "capsize" is perhaps more than normally common in my vocabulary from kayaking. – Chris H Feb 17 '15 at 17:15

No. 'Capsize' only applies on water, so will usually only be relevant to boats and ships.

When a car turns upside down in an accident that's a 'rollover'.

rollover NOUN 2 informal
The overturning of a vehicle:

  • it gives extra protection in side impacts and rollovers
  • He, who was also killed that day, had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia five years previously after sustaining a serious head injury resulting from a rollover car accident, according to family members.
  • Specifically the increase has been in single-vehicle run-off-road crashes such as rollovers or impacts with fixed objects.
  • He has survived two major wars, 16 drunk driving accidents, 3 tractor rollovers, and getting stabbed in the face by an angry ex-wife.

rollover. Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 17 February 2015.


Boats capsize, cars roll over.

  • 1
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Perhaps, but only in a figurative sense. For example, you might say that "the land yacht capsized in the Wal*Mart parking lot." Notice that we are extending capsizing to "land yachts", a figurative description of very large cars.

  • capsize can be used metaphorically...@ScotM – adityasrivastav Feb 17 '15 at 21:11

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