I'm looking for a technical word to describe objects that are travelling in parallel pathways but in opposite directions from each other. For instance on a highway you have two cars , one in the southbound lane and the other in the northbound lane, you would say the cars are .............(fill in the blank).

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    I suggest that belongs not to any English, but to first-year maths or physics degrees. If you drop the parallel and look at merely opposite directions it might well be covered in A-level, which outside the UK prolly equates to senior high school. – Robbie Goodwin Dec 27 '17 at 2:08

ODO gives this definition of antiparallel:

antiparallel adjective


Parallel but moving or oriented in opposite directions.

This fits your first two requirements (register and general definition) but would not fit your form and would not be suitable in most broadcast traffic commentaries.

  • Wow. I would have guessed that would mean perpendicular. After seeing the meaning I can understand how they arrived at that meaning but its use will probably lead to confusion unless it’s well-explained. – Jim Dec 27 '17 at 2:08
  • @Jim Actually, this usage (parallel but opposite) is established. Had the term not been suggested already, I'd have added it as an answer. – Lawrence Dec 27 '17 at 7:34
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    @Lawrence - I’m not doubting it. I’m just saying that I’d never heard of It and that I would have guessed wrong about what it meant had I encountered it in the wild. – Jim Dec 27 '17 at 7:37
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    @Jim Ah, the world of technical terminology. Who'd have guessed that normal would have meant perpendicular! :) – Lawrence Dec 27 '17 at 7:44

For traffic in particular, we have oncoming cars

a car etc that is coming towards you

"oncoming car/traffic", From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

However, this is normally used from the vantage point of the street, or in close proximity to the traffic. It doesn't sound idiomatic to use it as a remote, conceptual description.

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