When I 'reply' to something (a person, an email, etc.), the thing I produce through the action is a 'reply' (or a 'response'). Is there a generic term (noun) for the thing that the reply/response is replying to?

For some more context, I'm trying to choose a word for a database column for the 'parent' of a comment which is a reply to another comment (ie the next in the comment thread). This also implies a chain of comments rather than a bunch of comments all referring to a single 'conversation root'.

An example (that has a very obvious non-generic answer) would be: As you navigate through the conversation tree of comments, click the 'back' link to view the ___________ to which that particular reply was in response.

Some examples that I'm not (entirely) happy with:

  • original_comment
  • parent
  • reply_to
  • Welcome to EL&U! A good question! [single-word-requests] require a sample sentence, e.g. "When I poke a jelly and it moves after a wavy fashion, it is _____.", to which the answer might be "wobbling". Please edit your question to include such a phrase. Jan 17, 2019 at 19:22
  • You can reply to a comment, a post, a response, a reply, a message, an utterance, an intervention, a turn in the series, something that was written, a transaction -- and if none of those appeal to you you might get some more ideas by putting some of those into a thesaurus. Feb 16, 2019 at 22:06
  • To view the previous comment in this thread...
    – Jim
    Apr 18, 2019 at 6:34

4 Answers 4


Is it not a request?

The person replying is a respondent, and the information they give is a response.

And to what do I respond, with a response - surely a request.

  • I don't know about you but in a typical day I respond to plenty of things that are not requests. May 20, 2019 at 1:25
  • @AntonSherwood You make a valid point. We "respond" to many things - initiatives, suggestions, proposals, actions, comments etc. (as well as requests) and I don't know that there is any generic term that encompasses the types of things to which you respond.
    – WS2
    May 20, 2019 at 8:38

I have two synonyms to consider, both of which strongly suggest the idea that the item comes before the reply.


  1. Any thing that precedes another thing, especially the cause of the second thing.

  2. An ancestor.

"Antecedent" also has several specific uses in math, logic, and grammar. Personally, I would find that interference about as distracting as the word "parent."

For that reason I prefer precursor.

That which precurses: a forerunner, predecessor, or indicator of approaching events.

So an initial comment may be the precursor or antecedent of a reply.



From an English language & usage point of view, TaliesinMerlin is absolutely right - antecedent is near perfect. But from the point of view of a developer choosing a column name, both "antecedent" and "precursor" are very clumsy, so I would use predecessor.


The word you are looking for is thread.

  • I think the OP is looking for a word for a specific node in a thread. May 20, 2019 at 1:24

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