I'm not sure if this question belongs on English SE, but the following question is about word origins.

Let's take two words: update and outdate.

Update means to make (something) more modern or up to date.

Outdate means to to make out of date : make obsolete.

So, we can say, more or less, that update and outdate are opposites or antonyms.

So, why are the prefixes up and out rather than up and down or in and out?

Wouldn't update/downdate or indate/outdate make more sense? Where did the origin of the prefixes up/out come from?

  • Sorry but no. It sounds as though it should, and “Update” does not mean to make (something) more modern or up to date nor, really, anything like that. To “update” broadly means simply to replace an old with a new value. Do you see the difference? Outdate would, mechanically, mean to make out of date or obsolete but it doesn’t. You might find a dictionary which suggests otherwise but idiomatically, “outdate” as a verb has only past tenses: it is/was/became/was outdated. If you think “I will/you might outdate this/that/the other” has a place in English, please explain how. Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 21:30
  • @RobbieGoodwin Google says update is that exact definition...
    – NL628
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 21:50
  • Really? What, exactly, did you mean by "update is that exact definition"? Is it possible you're not sure what "update" and "outdate" mean? Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 21:54
  • @RobbieGoodwin like if you look up "update meaning" on google you get exactly what I wrote above :/
    – NL628
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 22:11

1 Answer 1


It's because update comes from bring up to date while outdate from make out of date.

As you see, their etymologies do not really go hand in hand.

  • Ah I see that actually makes a lot of sense! Thanks :D
    – NL628
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 15:45

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