I am looking for a word to use to describe technical traits of a programming language that are the opposite of each other yet complementary.

There is no positive or negative connotation to either trait. Similar to the concept of yin and yang.

For example “deserialization” is the opposite of “serialization” in that they are reciprocal behaviors to each other but also orthogonal as well, as in the computer science jargon that there is a fixed minimal set of instructions to do either thing.

I am looking for a word to describe the concept of this relationship and that this is the only way to do the thing that is being described.

  • 3
    Any particular reason why complementary wouldn't do? May 1, 2015 at 16:16

2 Answers 2


Inverse Operations and Functions article on Massey University website

The operations put on and take off undo each other. If we do one operation then the other, we end up where we started. Put on is the inverse operation to take off. Take off is the inverse operation of put on. Such operations form an operation-inverse operation pair.

The same is true in mathematics. Most operations have an inverse operation.

  • this seems like a good word for me to use right now, it does not convey that this is the single way to do something but I will keep searching
    – user10126
    May 1, 2015 at 23:39

There can be no such word, because it would make no sense. Opposite means along the same dimension yet going the other way along that dimension. Complementary and orthogonal mean along different dimensions.

  • in computer science orthogonal means the smallest set if unique operations available without redundancy.
    – user10126
    May 1, 2015 at 19:40
  • That comes originally from a geometric analysis using the sense Greg pointed out. Special senses of standard terms abound in special contexts, but are not generally understood outside that context. This is ELU, not stack overflow. May 3, 2015 at 15:42

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