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
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 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
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 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
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 15:32

6 Answers 6


Supercategories is technically correct.

There are also subscript and superscript to back this example.

  • 3
    And for those of us in Computer Science, subclasses and superclasses. journals.ecs.soton.ac.uk/java/tutorial/java/javaOO/… Commented May 26, 2011 at 12:51
  • @Ben Hocking If subcategories are viewed from the point of inheritance then correct. Although it is a matter of perspective.
    – Philoto
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 13:06
  • 2
    Supercategories may be technically correct, following the -script and -classes analogue, but parent categories sounds better to me in this case.
    – Hugo
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 13:24
  • 2
    @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. Commented May 26, 2011 at 14:36
  • 2
    @Hugo following that reasoning, subcategories should be child categories? Commented May 26, 2011 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.


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

  • What about translated texts on the left/right of the picture, e.g. for some vertical scripts, like Hudum Mongol script?
    – Victor
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 12:58
  • I agree. 'sur-' as a prefix can be used almost everywhere as an opposite of the 'sub-' prefix. It is however extremely uncommon to see it. Commented Jun 15, 2022 at 11:52

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! Commented May 26, 2011 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
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 18:52
  • 1
    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. Commented Jun 8, 2011 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. Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 21:46
  • @Fumble: I actually went out and bought that one after finishing GEB years ago (-: Commented Jun 8, 2011 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
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 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. Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 9:07

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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