Is there a term for describing an exact matching pair of antonyms? In the example below we have a pair of synonyms and antonyms. However, I want to explain to my coworkers that when they name pairs of variables for actions they should use matching pairs, like the pair Start-Stop, and not to use other matches like Start-End.

Start - Stop

Begin - End

After asking this question I found a previous post that contained the same question: Is there a term for the direct opposite?

  • I don't think they're the perfect examples. Stop is not exactly equal to end. Something can have many stops but only one end
    – NVZ
    May 21, 2016 at 19:52
  • 1
    "Antonym" is a very vague word. It's rare to find a case where everyone would agree that a pair of words are exact antonyms with no other antonyms being possible for either of them. For example, what is the exact antonym of "big": is it "small" or "little"?
    – herisson
    May 21, 2016 at 20:20
  • I disagree with your example. 'Start' can pair with 'end' just as well as 'stop'
    – Mitch
    May 21, 2016 at 20:55
  • I was just trying to provide an example so that people had a better understanding of my question. It sounds like there is not a single word that perfectly describes this as I originally thought.
    – Brandt
    May 21, 2016 at 22:03
  • These are the sorts of terms that drive programmers nuts...
    – user83454
    May 21, 2016 at 22:43

2 Answers 2


The term polar opposite comes to mind, but I don't think there is a precise term for what you're describing, because "exact matching pairs" don't exist as such (outside of e.g. maths and sciences). English is too much of a mushy, hand-wavey language.

The examples you give depend on context. For example--why not start/finish?

Besides that, splitting hairs over variable naming conventions...is not a great use of time ;)

  • Very true, it depends on the context to decide which pairs make sense. I actually do think that naming in software is very important especially when english is a second or third language for our development team. It makes the code very hard to read and to understand.
    – Brandt
    May 21, 2016 at 22:06

How about "antithesis"? It seems to have a few different meanings, the simplest of which is:

  • a person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else.

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