What’s a word or short phrase for the following? An object, person, animal or something else that is thrown aside because of its uselessness but picked up by some others and it's being used for the opposite purpose it was meant for.

I can only think of the noun 'frippery', 'kamikaze' or 'a materialistic thing that's irrelevant' but I'm not sure. Thank you!

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    Can you think of a word or phrase in your language that means that? English doesn't currently have one, but if you do we might steal it. Mar 11, 2020 at 17:11
  • 1
    Not really, no. I've learned English my whole life and can barely speak my own language. Mar 11, 2020 at 17:12
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    "repurposed junk/trash" would partially fit, but would not imply "opposite" just "different" usage than the original purpose
    – Kevin
    Mar 11, 2020 at 17:29
  • How can a person be thrown aside and then used for the opposite purpose that it was meant for?
    – nnnnnn
    Mar 11, 2020 at 23:24
  • Sorry, I just meant a situation of some sort. I got it, thanks though! @nnnnnn Mar 11, 2020 at 23:33

2 Answers 2


For objects, the term for the process is upcycling:

Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value.


Note that upcycling has a positive connotation. Depending on your context it might work better to use an adjective: e.g. upcycled materials.

  • How does that differ from "recycling"?
    – WS2
    Mar 11, 2020 at 23:47
  • @WS2 Recycling doesn’t usually have the stuff end up in a new or better spot than it was before. For example, recycled plastic is no better or worse off than regular plastic. I would say that upcycling is a specific type of recycling.
    – Laurel
    Mar 12, 2020 at 0:05
  • The question did not say "a better purpose" but "the opposite purpose", whatever that might mean. If I throw away an old bicycle, what in heaven's name is "its opposite purpose"?
    – WS2
    Mar 12, 2020 at 0:09
  • @WS2 I was confused about that too, and I don’t think many things have an “opposite” purpose, so I just took it to mean a transformative purpose. For example, your old bicycle could be upcycled into a clothing rack or something. In any case, anything is better than the garbage.
    – Laurel
    Mar 12, 2020 at 0:26
  • Would you consider a clothing rack, even the rather colourful one shown, "up" from a bicycle?
    – WS2
    Mar 12, 2020 at 0:36

Co-opt is probably as close as you get in English.

divert to or use in a role different from the usual or original one.
"social scientists were co-opted to work with the development agencies"
Oxford Dictionary online:co-opt

But this lacks the discarded part. Usually, whatever was co-opted was filched, more or less.

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