The title is basically my question. The word lower can be a comparative form of low as an adjective, but it can also be a verb.

However, the antonym of the word such as higher or upper cannot be used as a verb.

Why is this? Or is there any other antonym of lower that can function as a verb?

  • 2
    The antonym of the verb "lower" is the verb "raise" ... (I'm not sure from your question whether you know that already).
    – herisson
    Sep 15 '18 at 6:42
  • I mean I know "raise" might count as an antonym, but what I meant was, why is it not "upper" or "higher"? The direct antonym of "low" is "high". But then, lower can be a verb but higher cannot be? Isn't this strange?
    – jun
    Sep 15 '18 at 7:10
  • 2
    While upper may not be used as a verb, it's interesting how up can be, as in: He upped his game.
    – J.R.
    Sep 15 '18 at 7:52
  • I've altered the tags here because this phenomenon is not restricted to AmE, and it seems the answer will be buried in the historical development of the language.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 15 '18 at 8:29
  • Higher has been used as a verb. See Laurel's answer. There is no reason that upper cannot be used as verb. It's just that it hasn't been. Feel free to start using it as such. Sep 16 '18 at 6:14

You say it can't, but people do use it as a verb. It's not very common (often "raise" is used instead), but it's listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, which gives this example from the Birmingham Post (2012):

Egress [is] made easier for the driver by the steering wheel being automatically highered when the engine is switched off and lowered again when it is started.

Furthermore, this verb usage is old, dating back to at least 1592.

Here are some more examples.

It's usually used in contrast to "lower" (verb).

  • +1. I felt sure I'd heard it used colloquially in the sense of 'higher up the seat, will you?' I didn't find it in the dictionaries I checked in, but perhaps it's in the OED.
    – S Conroy
    Sep 15 '18 at 19:05
  • And upper? Are you saying, or implying, that it "can't" be used as a verb because it is not in the OED as such? Sep 16 '18 at 6:12

My answer is speculative.

Perhaps it's a case of blocking, where the slot for higher as a verb was already occupied at the time that the verb lower entered the language by way of its older adjective.
Raise (in the sense of making higher from ca 1300) had already been in use for some 300 years when the verb lower entered the language in 1600 first as an intransitive verb and about 50 years later as a transitive verb.

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