I am looking for two words/names/terms that refer to something that as a whole cannot exist without each of the two. I am not looking for a term for the "whole" as this "whole" may not have a known name itself, as it is commonly defined by its parts. Each part is as important as the other. The two terms may have not an actual meaning, but if then it should be neutral or positively connoted.

The best I could think of was Ying and Yang. Are there other suited terms?

Ideas I discarded are given below [+ argument against]

Alpha   +  Omega   [implies beginning and end]
First   +  Second  [implies ranking]
Mother  +  Father  [implies gender]
Good    +  Bad     [implies good & bad]
PartA   +  PartB   [implies lack of imagination]
Part    +  Tarp    [implies failed attempt at being imaginative]

closed as unclear what you're asking by user66974, oerkelens, tchrist, Phil Sweet, Jacinto Aug 17 '16 at 8:55

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Although common use has it otherwise, it's yin and yang, not ying – Jim Mack Aug 15 '16 at 17:38
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    My mistake. I leave it in my question to expose my own ignorance. – Stingery Aug 15 '16 at 17:39
  • strictly speaking "opposite poles" is an expression of two words that fit your definition, but I guess it's not what you're looking for – P. O. Aug 15 '16 at 17:53
  • Using your example, how can one use the word good without the comparative value against which to contrast? There can be no good without bad. Part of anything implies the existence of the thing into which the part fits. The question appears to be contrived or badly formulated. There's a conceptual problem with the question as posed. – Stan Aug 15 '16 at 17:55
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    Please add an example sentence where you would use the expression. Although are you specifically looking for two parts or can it be more? – Helmar Aug 15 '16 at 17:56

I may be misinterpreting your question, but I assume you are looking for a pair of words which evoke the idea of two parts which are only meaningful in relation to one another. I rather like the phrase "mutually arising," which I am borrowing from the late philosopher Alan Watts.

In my opinion, Yin and Yang are the best words to describe this phenomena. English has, to the best of my knowledge, no phrase which captures the subtlety of Yin and Yang as they are known in Chinese. That being said, there are a few pairs which could suffice in the right context:

Ebb and Flow - traditionally used to mean the movement of the tides, but as an abstract concept it can mean flux and rhythm. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ebb%20and%20flow)

Light and Dark - this may have too many connotations of good and evil, but it is a good example of two things that cannot be defined qualitatively without one another.

Waxing and Waning - technical words for the lunar cycle, having the same abstract meaning as "ebb and flow." (https://www.reference.com/science/difference-between-waxing-waning-87b8b9c80bea470a).


warp and woof/weft


Noun warp and woof ‎(countable and uncountable, plural warps and woofs)

The threads in a woven fabric, composed of the warp (threads running lengthwise) and woof (threads running crosswise) to create the texture of the fabric.

(by extension) The fundamental structure of any process or system.  


2001, Ellen Perry Berkeley, Simi Berman, At Grandmother’s Table: Women Write about Food, Life and the Enduring Bond Between Grandmothers and Granddaughters, p. 85: The warp and woof of our lives, sensible, sensitive, a veritable 911, she was called upon whenever something went wrong.

1907, National Education Association of the United States‎, Addresses and Proceedings, p. 496: He unconsciously uses the fitting word and phrase to designate the situation in which he finds himself, thus the fitting word and phrase, the well-chosen modifier and forcible verb become part of the warp and woof of his speech.

1857, Hinton Rowan Helper, The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet it, p. 406: … the “manifest destiny” theory that justifies the stealing of all territory contiguous to our own, and kindred topics, constitute the warp and woof of conversation.

Synonyms: warp and weft


Husband and wife describe a family (taken as a "set," at a minimum).
Husband alone does not describe family.
Husband alone is not a family.
(Husband alone is an individual.)
Wife alone does not describe family.
Wife alone is not a family.
(Wife alone is an individual.)
Both husband and wife are necessary to describe a family.
A family is composed of two individuals who taken individually (separated) are not half-a-set but revert into their constituent pieces (individuals).

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    Thanx. I learned my lesson. Avoid dumb questions. – Stan Aug 15 '16 at 18:12
  • Plenty of families lack one or both of "husband" and "wife". – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 15 '16 at 18:45
  • A man I know is raising his five daughters by himself. His wife is dead. He cannot be said to have a wife. They are still a family. A woman I know is raising her son. She has no husband. They are a family. Two men I know are married. They have no wives. They are a family. You can't just define "family" as "husband" and "wife". – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 15 '16 at 21:23
  • My point is that lots of families exist without having a husband or a wife. A man I know lived with his girlfriend. They were not "husband" and "wife". They were a family. An unwed mother raising a child. A single man adopting his orphaned newphew. There are countless configurations of "family" that do not even pass through the "husband and wife" stage. Neither husband nor wife define a family. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 15 '16 at 22:03
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    @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 You've made your point. You've completely missed mine. – Stan Aug 15 '16 at 22:12

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