Think parent, or meta. Something along those lines. How can the relationship between production and product be described?

You could write an article about a specific product, or production in general. Or bananas and banana trees. The difference between thinking about an apple and thinking about thought.

In other words, if a is an instance of b, what is b of a? Parent comes to mind, but that's from programming. What word could you use that's immediately obvious and understandable to non-programmers?

  • 2
    Your question isn't quite clear yet. There are several ways it could be interpreted. I don't think an economy is an instance of economics. Could you make it clearer? Thanks. Note: I can think of various, slightly different words. Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 21:03
  • 1
    In computer programming, an "object" is an "instance" of a "class".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 22:41
  • 1
    Prototype, pattern, paradigm, model, archetype.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 23:56
  • Your question is still unclear. I recommend it be closed.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 20:07

7 Answers 7


The word you may be looking for, immediately understandable to nonprogrammers and nonspecific enough to encompass all your examples and any others you may care to come up with, is

category, n.


  1. Logic and metaphor. A term (meaning literally ‘predication’ or ‘assertion’) given to certain general classes of terms, things, or notions; the use being very different with different authors.

(from the OED)

The categories, in the Aristotelian sense, are the ways of describing things. Aristotle (do I need to say famously?) lists ways things may be described. His lists of such ways vary in length and in their particulars, but perhaps the most often quoted is this: things may be described in terms of

(1) substance, (2) quantity, (3) quality, (4) relation, (5) where, (6) when, (7) being-in-a-position, (8) possessing, (9) doing or (10) undergoing something or being affected by something.

(from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

To relate this to your specific examples:

  • A theatrical production (for example) is the category that includes plays, dramas, etc., that is, theatrical products. Likewise, abstraction is the category that includes an abstract.
  • An economy is an element of the category economics.
  • Thinking about the way you're thinking is categorical thinking.
  • If a is an instance of b, then b is the category that includes a.

type -

  • one having qualities of a higher category
  • qualities common to a number of individuals that distinguish them as an identifiable class
  • a member of an indicated class or variety of people
  • a particular kind, class, or group
  • something distinguishable as a variety

"What type is it?" would perhaps work. However, "What is its type?" is still plain English if the former yields an adjective rather than a noun.


If a is an instance of b then b is an abstraction of a.

The word is used in programming but it predates programming.


(2) the process of formulating generalized ideas or concepts by extracting common qualities from specific examples.

(3) an idea or concept formulated in this way ⇒ good and evil are abstractions


expressing a quality apart from an object <the word poem is concrete, poetry is abstract>

A poem is an instance of poetry.

Poetry is the abstract concept that encompasses all poems.

  • Good answer, but it could do with a supporting reference. Try Collins for this sense. Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 22:33
  • @EdwinAshworth better like this? Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 6:07
  • No! You need Collins nounal senses 2 & 3 for abstraction. 'Abstract' doesn't really work here. Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 9:18
  • @EdwinAshworth curses, foiled by a failure to conjugate. Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 9:32
  • A wonderful example of even intercategorial polysemes having dramatically different meanings is 'telescope' (n) and 'telescope' (v). But do get rid of 'abstract' and replace the definition. Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 9:38

Consider "conceptualization", which is defined by oxforddictionaries.com as "an abstract idea or concept of something". That site presents the example phrase "a new conceptualization of national identity".


Antecedent? As in the opposite of Descendant.

a is descendant of b, which makes b the antecedent of a. Antecedent Definition

  • Hi ATG, please consider adding a definition to your answer.
    – Dog Lover
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 10:52

In programming class is the term for an abstract structure that can be instantiated; a specific instance is created by allocating memory for it and setting values for its characteristic parameters.


The word that describes what you might be asking would be:



the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, which determines its character.

"conflict is the essence of drama"

synonyms: quintessence, soul, spirit, ethos, nature, life, lifeblood, core, heart, centre, crux, nub, nucleus, kernel, marrow, meat, pith, gist, substance, principle, central part, fundamental quality, basic quality, essential part, intrinsic nature, sum and substance, reality, actuality; quiddity, esse; informalnitty-gritty

"uncertainty is part of the very essence of economic activity"

Another word:



an essential or characteristic part of something abstract.

"the death had all the elements of a great tabloid story"

synonyms: component, constituent, part, section, portion, piece, segment, bit; factor, feature, facet, ingredient, strand, detail, point; member, unit, module, item; essential

"Village shops are an essential element of the local community"

"Each of more than one hundred substances that cannot be chemically interconverted or broken down into simpler substances and are primary constituents(another word) of matter. Each element is distinguished by its atomic number, i.e. the number of protons in the nuclei of its atoms"

Another word might be :


noun noun: kind; plural noun: kinds

character or nature. "the trials were different in kind from any that preceded them" synonyms: character, nature, essence, quality, disposition, make-up, calibre; type, style, stamp, manner, description, mould, cast, temperament, ilk, kidney, persuasion; stripe

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