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Is there a linguistic term for words that describe a group whose sole common characteristic is that the members are not members of a smaller, special group?

  • civilian (not a soldier)
  • Gentile (not Jewish)
  • layperson (not clergy)
  • neurotypical (not autistic, etc.)
  • Muggle (not a wizard in the Harry Potter series)
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    The outsiders? The others?
    – Xanne
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 20:06
  • All terms are linguistic in the sense of 'connected with a language'. And I don't see how the meta-language sense ('connected with linguistics') would apply here. You probably mean 'Is there a general term ...'. Commented May 9, 2017 at 21:30
  • Not what you're looking for probably, but these words all describe the complement of a particular group (from set theory). Perhaps "complementary?"
    – Evan
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 2:30

1 Answer 1

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Exclusive (as in the opposite of inclusive).

Whenever you create a single, binary classification of a group, the word you use to name that group (i.e. soldiers, jews, clergy, autistics, wizards) is the inclusive. The word you use to describe everything else (civilians, gentiles, laypeople, neurotypical, Muggles) is the exclusive.

Inclusive vs. exclusive language is only relevant from the context of a small subset referring to the larger excluded whole. For example, only a soldier would call someone a civilian, and only a Jew would call someone a gentile. Civilians and gentiles simply do not think in those terms.

When you are talking about a binary classification where the perspective does not matter (e.g. male vs. female, introvert vs. extrovert, etc.) that's called Mutually exclusive.

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