The term subcategories refers to lower level categories.

Which term should I use to refer to higher level categories?

Does supercategories sound right?

  • I came to this post after thinking about what would the opposite of "Sub-Saharan", i.e. countries above the Sahara. Geographically, the only defined term for that region is North Africa. If talking about it relative to the Sahara, though, is there a suitable prefix? Would "Sur-" as GEdgar answered below be correct? – dgBP Nov 20 '18 at 7:59
  • Prefix "super" is common. But note that the opposite of "subtitles" is "surtitles", the translation shown above the stage during operas sung in a foreign language. – GEdgar Jan 2 at 15:09
  • Disclaimer: I am not a native speaker! <br><br> I was wondering if it could be used "up" in this case. <br><br> Examples: Top down and bottom up, up-grade and down-grade, upbeat and downbeat, upwards and downwards.. etc. So if you have a sub-project does it sound weird to call its superproject an "up-project", as super is also used for bigger/better/more-performative.. ? – AMDP Mar 6 at 15:32

Supercategories is technically correct.

There are also subscript and superscript to back this example.

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    And for those of us in Computer Science, subclasses and superclasses. journals.ecs.soton.ac.uk/java/tutorial/java/javaOO/… – Ben Hocking May 26 '11 at 12:51
  • @Ben Hocking If subcategories are viewed from the point of inheritance then correct. Although it is a matter of perspective. – Philoto May 26 '11 at 13:06
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    Supercategories may be technically correct, following the -script and -classes analogue, but parent categories sounds better to me in this case. – Hugo May 26 '11 at 13:24
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    @Philoto, I did not mean to imply that subclasses and superclasses were subcategories and supercategories, merely that they followed the same pattern as subscript/superscript that @Third Idiot gave. – Ben Hocking May 26 '11 at 14:36
  • @Hugo following that reasoning, subcategories should be child categories? – AttackingHobo May 26 '11 at 18:41

For folders the term parent folder is usually used. And since categories are quite similar to folders, you may want to use parent category for higher-level categories. Or you can use upper-level categories.


Well, there is no defined prefix or word to be an opposite of "sub".

However, the higher level for "subcategories" is simply categories and the lower level is sub-subcategories and to go a third level down is sub-sub-subcategories and so on.

  • Welcome to EL&U. You're quite right, for OP's context (categories) it's meaningless to talk about a prefix for a higher-level category than the top one. He just has to go through all lower levels and add an extra sub- to each, since the original category has turned out to be a subcategory! – FumbleFingers May 26 '11 at 22:54
  • @FumbleFingers: Thank you for taking the effort to explain my answer. I appreciate your input and I am glad to be part of this community. – Jamie Jun 8 '11 at 18:52
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    np - I hope you'll grace our pages more in future. Don't worry too much about where the votes go (or don't, in your case here). Sometimes a more 'interesting' answer does get upvoted over a most 'accurate' one, but that's just democracy in action for you. – FumbleFingers Jun 8 '11 at 21:37

The prefix that springs to mind for me is meta- which I believe I picked up from reading Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. He even uses it as a standalone word.

And coincidentally enough in the RELATED box for this question is the opposite question!

  • Hofstadter's later Metamagical Themas (monthly column in Scientic American, subsequently published as a fascinating single-volume) is full of musings where he starts at the 'day-to-day' level, and ends up considering things from some higher 'meta-perspective'. Brilliant graphic on the inside front cover, if you ever come across a copy. – FumbleFingers Jun 8 '11 at 21:46
  • @Fumble: I actually went out and bought that one after finishing GEB years ago (-: – hippietrail Jun 8 '11 at 23:26
  • I thought of meta- as well, but it's tied to something that is an abstraction and that might operate under different rules. So while snakes are a subcategory of reptiles, I wouldn't call reptiles a meta-category. – Wayne Jul 5 '11 at 13:39
  • @Wayne: I think it's just a case of sub- having various opposites depending on the sense and root it's prefixed to and all sorts of stuff. – hippietrail Jul 6 '11 at 9:07

Movies often have subtitles, translated texts below the picture. When opera productions project translated texts above the stage, they are called surtitles.


I don't think there's an antonym for "sub" since we use "sub" to talk about something which is a level down from something else. For example, "sub-category" is a category within a category. If you have to go further, you may use "sub-sub category." But in the end, the only category above all of these is simply a "category."

If you were to refer to the first category from which the "sub-category" and "sub-sub category" are taking birth, you may do so with "main category."

Hope I answered your question.

I recommend the following sites for great grammar info:



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