Let's suppose you go to Ikea to buy a wardrobe, but you have to make sure it fits in your room.

You find two that are really nice and since you like them so much you decide to buy both of them.

So you measure their length, width and height (just to be sure they fit in your room).

For the width you have no problem: They could be thicker or narrower and would still fit.

However the first wardrobe length is not good. It's too long so you write in comments: Please provide a shorter one.

The second wardrobe length is good but its height is not. This one is too tall so you write in comments: Please provide a shorter one.

Wardrobe A is too large so it must be shorter.

Wardrobe B is too tall so it must be shorter.

Because shorter has two meanings you end up receiving both wardrobes with incorrect sizes.

Now the question:

Is there a pair of words for length and height that avoid using the same word to mean less magnitude?

  • Whether shorter means less length or less height is normally contextually obvious (it nearly always applies to whichever dimension is larger, in the referent). But there's nothing absolute about any of the three spatial dimensions anyway, so the heels on your footwear could just as well be thinner/thicker instead of longer/shorter (the latter being perhaps more likely when talking about stiletto heels). Mar 23 '16 at 16:31
  • 5
    Usually you can’t buy closets at Ikea, closets come with the house, wardrobes are typically, tall, wide, and deep and can be taller or shorter, wider or narrower, and deeper or shallower.
    – Jim
    Mar 23 '16 at 19:41
  • Thanks. Deeper and shallower makes sense. And I changed closet for wardrobe. Mar 24 '16 at 10:17
  • @Jim i think you should make your comment an answer. Mar 24 '16 at 11:22
  • Specify that you want greater/lesser length or greater/lesser height. Don't expect a generic term like "shorter" to be unambiguous without further qualification. (And as Jim suggests, "depth" is the usual dimension for a closet-like item, not "length".)
    – Hot Licks
    May 8 '16 at 3:14

You have confused some terms. When facing an object (esp. from the front), it has width (x), height (y), and depth (z). You called the depth 'width'. Length refers to the longest dimension of an object, although some dimensions may be excluded in the context (furniture may use the context of a 2D floor plan, and moving objects may use the 1D context of the direction of motion).

'Short' (or any other descriptor of linear dimension) can suffer from lack of a defined context. You should specify 'shorter height' or 'shorter width' to get a wardrobe that fits.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.