I am making a pair of earrings. They go together as a pair but they do not match each other. What word explains this?

  • There's a particular word I'm looking for, I think it's used primarily in the art community. For all I know it is a slang word (?). Most of what I find in my search is words about WORDS, not about THINGS.
    – Shelley
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 0:57
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    assymmetric? I've seen ads from world class jewelers for earrings that don't match. For example, a pair of drop earrings where one has a white pearl on the ear part, and a Tahitian pearl as the drop and the other earring is vice versa. So your design is in good company. Unfortunately, I don't remember the word either.
    – ab2
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 1:32
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    "mismatched pair" seems to be a fashion trend
    – Xanne
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 1:41
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    You guys are so helpful! I like asymmetrical and will use that, as in "asymmetrical composition". I hope I come across the other, more trendy word, but in the meantime I thank you!
    – Shelley
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 2:10
  • "In Jewelry, Matching Just Isn’t Cool Any More" (The New York Times) nytimes.com/2017/11/22/fashion/… Asymmetrical Earrings - on Pinterest pinterest.com/headka/jewelry-asymmetrical-earrings
    – Kris
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 13:24

9 Answers 9



From the South China Morning Post, see an article titled 6 asymmetrical jewellery pieces that add edge to classic luxury.

Chanel, Chaumet, Graff, De Grisogono, Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels offer asymmetrical and artistic pieces.

Scroll down to De Grisogono and then to Harry Winston to see two pairs of earrings. Each pair is obviously a pair, but in the De Grisogono pair the role of the diamonds and rubies are reversed, hence the pair is asymmetrical. In the Harry Winston pair, the front and back of each earring can be reversed, so that the lucky owner can wear them as a matching pair or an asymmetrical pair. (Diamonds, sapphires and aquamarines.) The prices are not given: if you have to ask, you can't afford them.

Although the South China Morning Post might seem a strange arbiter of English, in this price range (6 figures and up), fashion writers get it right.

  • From context, you can probably infer the meaning of asymmetrical as describing earrings, but it might be ambiguous between "the earrings aren't identical", or "the earrings are identical, but the shape of each is asymmetrical".
    – reffu
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 17:29
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    @reffu True. There are different levels of symmetry. The article I linked to had examples of asymmetrical shapes for necklaces and tiaras. Unless you have two necks or two heads, you can't wear an asymmetrical pair of necklaces or tiaras. :) For earrings, I think "asymmetrical pair" conveys that the earrings in the pair differ. If each earring was itself asymmetrical, you could say "an asymmetrical pair of asymmetrical earrings", but that would be clunky. You'd just show a picture.
    – ab2
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 17:49

Perhaps the word "mismatched" would fit this situation.


A further option is mix and match (dictionary.com):

(adj) made up of complementary elements taken from different sets or sources

The phrase can also be used as a verb.

It's used in exactly your context: Mix and match earrings: why you should try this jewellery trend (Woman and Home) for example; many shops selling them singly (to allow you to mix and match your own pair) use this term as well.


complementary is one word you could use.

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    Sorry, Freeman. The online examples of "complementary earrings" I've found mainly refer to pairs of earrings complementing say a necklace, with a few possible errors intending 'complimentary'. Commented May 29, 2018 at 10:13
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    @EdwinAshworth in my view this would be in the same spirit and is correct. The earings as a pair complement a necklace in the same way a single earing complements its, well, complementary one. Commented May 30, 2018 at 9:50
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    @Tasos Papastylianou Did you adopt the same approach when writing your doctoral thesis? Idiomaticity as well as grammaticality and ballpark semantic agreement is required in reasonable answers on ELU, and answers lacking supporting references (here not a mere definition of 'complementary') are considered unreliable. Perhaps you could provide evidence that examples like 'these earrings are complementary rather than a matching pair' are reasonably common. But I doubt it. Commented May 30, 2018 at 18:36
  • @EdwinAshworth the answer could certainly do with more detail, but there's no need to be rude.
    – beldaz
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 5:44
  • @beldaz I'd say challenging (to keep to the guidelines for quality and accuracy laid down in the Help Center) rather than rude. Do you want some person reading this to assume that 'complementary earrings' is a phrase as fixed as 'odd socks'? I'd say it's not even a loose collocation. But what impression do all the upvotes here convey? Commented May 31, 2018 at 9:43

"Unmatched" conveys the meaning of "not matching" without the connotation of a mistake that "mismatched" has. Although there might be a specific term of art in the jewelry trade as suggested in other answers, an "unmatched set" of anything is clearly two pieces that are not identical.

However, one could also argue that any two pieces of jewelry that are meant to be worn together, but are not identical in color, style, size, and other characteristics, are nevertheless "matched" in the intent of the designer.


I have purchased pairs of non-matching earrings that were listed as asymmetrical, although they were actually similarly proportioned and thus reasonably symmetrical in shape, but their actual designs were different enough to not obviously have been designed as a pair. I think the phrase a 'non-matching pair' conveys both the fact that the two are indeed a pair, and that they were not supposed to be alike.


I would say that they are an odd pair of earrings.

As one of the definitions for odd given in Collins Dictionary:

  1. adjective

You say that two things are odd when they do not belong to the same set or pair.

"I'm wearing odd socks today by the way."

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    The intention seems to be that the earrings are intentionally mismatched ... hence not an odd set/pair.
    – Lawrence
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 9:40
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    The word odd just means not belonging to the same pair, it doesn't imply the intention of the wearer at all. Lots of people deliberately wear odd socks for example.
    – Matt
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 10:28
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    I would just change this a little to say and "odd pair of earrings" rather than just "odd earrings". Commented May 29, 2018 at 16:45
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    There's also the issue @hatchet's comment brings up - that earrings don't have to be mismatched to be odd :) . Oddly enough, it sounds fine with socks.
    – Lawrence
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 6:28

I would probably use the word "fraternal" but this wouldn't be standard. (In analogy with twins).

  • While this is funny, it wouldn't make sense without the explanation.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 11:25

I think Randy's answer hits upon it as far as British English is concerned - I would say non-matching, although this is not technically the one worded answer that you are looking for.

There may be a newer, more fashionable term, but this is what would have been said in the past fourty or so years, in the UK. I certainly remember my mother using that expression/term.

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