Is there a verb that means "retroactively create"?

For example:

John wanted to retroactively create a relationship with his estranged father.

I'm not looking for a word that means "retroactively improve" (e.g. gentrify).

Apologies for the split infinitive, if it offends you.

EDIT: I suppose I'm really looking for a word that means "go back and change one thing into another thing." John has a relationship with his father: an estranged one. He'd like to change it into something better. Maybe this blurs the distinction between "retroactively create" and "retroactively improve," but I'm looking for a word more like the former.

EDIT 2: The downvotes and sarcasm aren't necessary. I had a question and I asked it. Maybe there's not an answer... but there's certainly not a reason to berate me for inquiring.

"Retroactively create" is, indeed, paradoxical. I'm looking for a way to say that a person has recognized a mistake, and has tried to "erase" it rather than fix it.

Another example:

After the public realized the evidence was insufficient, the administration tried to ______ reasons for its behavior.

  • 5
    If time travel were easier, I'm sure this would be a much-used word.
    – user13141
    Nov 29, 2011 at 8:36
  • I don't get it. I agree with @Kris that "retroactively create" is paradoxical. You can't take an action that has an tangible effect on the past. Maybe you just mean "repair"?
    – tenfour
    Nov 29, 2011 at 19:59
  • 3
    There is a term for this used in the comic book industry - retcon (retroactive continuity). I think you could use this term (somewhat metaphorically) to refer to real life.
    – Olaf4
    Nov 29, 2011 at 20:36

4 Answers 4


Rework his strained relationship? The phrase retroactively create sounds rather self-contradictory.

In this particular instance, rework also sends the message that John wants to really work at it, which of course is a different matter.

  • 2
    I think the problem with OP's question (and hence the problem with this answer) is simply that English doesn't have verbs that include time travel as a piece of the action.
    – user13141
    Nov 29, 2011 at 11:36
  • @onomatomaniak: Does any other natural language?
    – Kris
    Nov 29, 2011 at 11:38
  • I can only speak for three, and none of them do.
    – user13141
    Nov 29, 2011 at 11:47
  • 3
    However, once time travel is invented, time travelers will have flooded the past, and the word you want will have retroactively been part of the language all along. Nov 29, 2011 at 21:36

hmm - so, to rephrase, you're looking for a word or phrase that means "take an existing object or condition and create it differently, as if from scratch." Is this correct? If so, I'd start with "recreate" or "rebuild".


I think the term you're looking for has nothing to do with "retroactive". When John creates this new relationship, it will have no effect on the past.

I would suggest:

  • to reform / rework the relationship
  • to make amends
  • to patch things up
  • to repair / fix / mend the relationship
  • ah - I like reform in this context.
    – Olaf4
    Nov 29, 2011 at 20:23
  • There are two separate verbs spelt reform, one meaning to improve and the other to form again.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 9, 2022 at 16:36

If nothing else suits the OP's purpose, we could think on the lines of atone.

Strictly, this is (was) not a right fit (when I first read the question on Nov.29). But then, who knows, the OP might be looking for something like this. Or, maybe not.

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