Consider the simple phrase “This bottle contains a bee”, is there a single word that would fit the formulation of “This bee [someword] a bottle”?

This is for a taxonomy of edges in a graph where a node might mention another node and that mention can be classed as a particular type. For “contains” the mention could occur at either end of the edge (e.g. “France contains Paris”, or “Paris [someword] France”).

This is subtly different from equivalence establishing mentions where the edge classification means the same in both directions. For example: “France is Bacon” implies “Bacon is France” (as well as an ignorance of late 16th C history).

Some examples to work from:

  • This bottle contains the bee; The bee ____ this bottle.
  • Europe contains France; France _____ Europe.
  • France contains Paris; Paris _____ France.
  • The forest contains the temple; the temple _____ the forest.
  • The formulation “X [word] Y” doesn't need to be perfect grammar, just not long-winded and inverted like "X is contained by Y"
    – Erics
    Oct 24, 2017 at 6:03
  • 3
    The simplest solution is "in". The bee is in the bottle, France is in Europe, Paris is in France, etc.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 24, 2017 at 7:29
  • I don't think you could do better than "is contained within" Oct 24, 2017 at 8:47
  • 3
    BTW you're asking about the converse here, not the opposite: you might want to edit your question to make that more clear. Oct 24, 2017 at 8:48

3 Answers 3


The opposite of "contain" would be unloose, free, exposed, or exclude, so I don't think that is what the OP had in mind.

The simplest solution is "in".

The bee is in the bottle, France is in Europe, Paris is in France, etc.

But if you want a fancier word, encapsulated, might tick the container. Thus,

the bee is encapsulated by the bottle.

  • But "encapsulate" is not the converse of "contain". On the contrary, it is a synonym of "contain". From the point of view of the OP, "the bee is encapsulated by the bottle" is no better than "the bee is contained by the bottle". They were specifically looking for a single word that expressed the relationship of A being-inside B. Sep 18, 2018 at 16:22

It is not very idiomatic, but occupy fits your bee sample:

2 a :to take up (a place or extent in space)

  • this chair is occupied
  • the fireplace will occupy this corner of the room

4 :to reside in as an owner or tenant

  • occupies an apartment on a two-year lease


However, the construction change you are trying can be considered to be a change to passive voice. So, the verb contains would change to is contained by (noted in comments to your question). A shortened form would be is in or is within.


I understand you are looking for a technical word that expresses in common English the opposite predicate (function returning true or false) of contains. The verb occupy might work in real life examples, but does not seem exactly applicable to your use case with a graph.

I would suggest a solution by using a little lateral thinking. We can start with an analogy: in a programming language, you would express this with a function named is_in or belongs_to.

We could "not mind manoeuvers and go straight at them", i.e. use the same device in normal English:

This bottle contains the bee; The bee is-in this bottle.

Europe contains France; France is-in Europe.

France contains Paris; Paris is-in France.

The forest contains the temple; the temple is-in the forest.

Non-technical people might initially frown at the hyphen, but would understand the meaning at once.

But for people in the know, it would work exactly as a transitive verb like occupy. Let me justify this usage by calling it an idiom (phrasal verb): in principle "be in" means just "be + in". But in your mind it would be transitive phrasal verb (neologism) that means:

be-in (transitive): in a graph, to connect a mentioned node to a mentioning node (opposite of contain).

(I apologize for the awkward definition and you might find a better one.)

The hyphen is optional, but it would convey this phrasal nature of your expression without ambiguity, and would be self-evident to your readers.

The justification here is expediency, shortness, and the requirement of being understood, in a technical paper. In any case, that would require a definition note in any formal paper (and needless to say, it might be considered anathema in other contexts).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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