What is a good word choice for "to make incomplete" The context is that if I am following a path and perfectly reverse course, I will return to my place of origin. However, failure to precisely reverse my trajectory will make my return incomplete. Thanks!

Edit: I am really trying to capture the essence of taking something that was complete and making it incomplete. Perhaps the context that I provided wasn't that helpful. What would the verb be if I had an apple, but took a bite out of it making it incomplete? When a student answers the last question on an assignment they "complete it". If that student erases the answer did they "incomplete it"? What is the verb in this case?

  • 1
    "failure to precisely reverse my trajectory will make my return incomplete." Not necessarily. You may still get back to your departure point.
    – Centaurus
    May 15, 2019 at 1:53
  • Failure to retrace our steps precisely might prevent us from getting back to Square One. May 15, 2019 at 5:03
  • 'Erring' carries the senses both of making a mistake and missing the target. (Collins disagrees with AHD and RHK Webster's that the 'deviating' sense is archaic.) May 15, 2019 at 18:28
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    For "taking something that was complete and making it incomplete": try undo, or look up undo in a thesaurus for other possibilities. NB: we require questions to show evidence of research, and questions asking for a single word to show how it would be used in a sentence. See How to Ask for further guidance, and take the EL&U Tour. :-) Jun 11, 2019 at 3:09

4 Answers 4



When people or things regress, they return to an earlier and less advanced stage of development.


Is it meant in the sense of "render a plan or intention incompletely"? (As opposed to "reduce from a present state of completion to an inferior state".)

I would think "miscarry", "founder", "confound", "forestall", "defeat", "waylay", "delay", "check", "sour", or "frustrate" could all be possible candidates.

For example, "a failure to precisely reverse will frustrate my return".

EDIT: @Canaryyellow, an example of objects, consisting conventionally of parts, being reduced to a partial or inferior state, could be "undo", "break", "disassemble", "separate", "dismantle", "undress", even "strip" (of particular pieces).

Objects not consisting of parts, or reduced in a fashion other than disassembly, could be "degraded" or "damaged".

I really don't think there is one perfect antonym for "complete" in all cases, because of the variety of ways the word complete is used, and obviously "to uncomplete" is not in accepted use.

With most things there are a variety of ways in which they can be put in a degraded state so very generic words for reducing to an inferior or unwhole state (like "damage") tend to have negative and undesirable connotations rather than being merely neutral.

Your half-eaten apple isn't being "incompleted", it is being consumed or digested in the proper way, and so clearly any words with negative connotations are not suitable.

And what happens to the apple is very different to erasing answers from a test paper. The latter could be "reset".

  • Thanks for the suggestions, I'm actually looking for the latter " "reduce from a present state of completion to an inferior state". I edited the question to clarify this. May 22, 2019 at 22:21

In the sense of the exam with the last question blank it you may want incomplete

  • not complete; lacking some part

For a partial plan consider fragmentary

  • lacking some necessary part


  • consisting of or reduced to fragments; broken; disconnected; incomplete



The best word I could find for this is mutilate. It means to inflict an injury or disfiguring on.

Another word I found is annul. It means to declare invalid.

On second thoughts would undo work.

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