Looking for a pair of words that compactly express the notion of moving one position forward, and one position backward.

I had thought to use "advance" for the first, as you might say a clock's second hand advances to the next position. But I'm having a hard time coming up with a corresponding word for the opposite direction. I had thought of regress, and recede and some others but they all seem to me to have a connotation of reverting to a previous state instead of simply moving in a rearward direction.

I think "recess" (as in astronomical "procession" / "recession") almost has the right flavor but that meaning of recess is not well known.

Context: This is for naming a pair of subroutines for navigating a list or array in a software system. One can advance one position in the array or <move backward> one position.

  • 1
    It would help to have a context.
    – J. Taylor
    Feb 9, 2017 at 19:35
  • Is this application only for programming? Or does it have a use in a wider context? If only for programming you should add the tag. Feb 9, 2017 at 19:59
  • 2
    @Cascabel The word might have an application in board games.
    – Andrew Leach
    Feb 9, 2017 at 19:59
  • 2
    What about "retreat"?
    – Hellion
    Feb 9, 2017 at 20:02
  • I think recede is the word you were looking for.
    – Barmar
    Feb 9, 2017 at 20:25

2 Answers 2


In programming, we used increment to add one count, decrement to subtract one count.

The process of increasing in number, size, quantity, or extent.


Simpler, use step forward one or step back one, not fancy but clear.

  • Increment and decrement are reasonable possibilities, but they mix up the idea of advancing/reversing with becoming greater or lesser in value. Taking a step forward is not incrementing anything, it's simply moving in a forward direction. (I realize that that doesn't square all that well with my "context" comment. But I'm trying to accommodate the idea of a circular queue as well, where advancing is not necessarily increasing the index.) Step-forward-one/step-back-one is what I'm looking for, just in one word ;) Feb 10, 2017 at 1:23

You could say retreat. But that does sound sort of strange.

You could use "following"/"previous", "next"/"last" (last isnt so good). Or some combination.

Theres increment and decrement. That doesn't really work.

I don't know what the whole name is, but just making the name longer can make a weird word much more clear. "previousItem" or "getPreviousItem" and "getFollowingItem" or something maybe. to be very clear, you could say "incrementPosition" or even "incrementPositionInArray" (and decrement for the opposite direction).

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