I want to display some hierarchical data. In math and computer science we'd use "parent" and "children", but I'm unsure if they're considered technical terms. Are there similar words that would be understood by nearly all English speakers?


The specific context is communities that belong to other communities. E.g. the soccer community would be a subset/child of the sports community and the opposite would be the superset/parent.

  • 3
    You do not give the nature of the data; you do not say in what format the phrase will be used, and you do not say who your target audience are. We cannot guess these things. As a general answer, "If you are using such phrases as "hierarchical data", you will be addressing an audience who are quite familiar with "parent and child" relationships."
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 8:50
  • The target audience is all English speakers. I edited the question
    – Leo Jiang
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 10:40
  • 1 You do not give the nature of the data; - What is the subject of the data? 2 you do not say in what format the phrase will be used - Is it column headers, description of a graph, within the text? and 3 you do not say who your target audience are - All English speakers is not a "target audience" - Who will be most interested in this?
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 10:53
  • Mathematics will look at a hierarchical graph and call the all the circles nodes and all the attaching lines edges. The top-most node is called the root node. The bottom-most nodes are called leaf nodes. A node that is above and attached to another node is called a parent. I've seen the parent/child named for Object-Oriented (computer science) classes as well. I'd say it's widespread enough to be used in many contexts. For communities, you could say that the NFL is the parent organization of the AFC and the NFC.
    – rajah9
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 13:40
  • 1
    Subcommunity might work, but not supercommunity. The soccer community is a subcommunity of the sporting community, but I don't know a noun to say the sporting community includes the soccer community. Parent organisation implies an organisational hierarchy, not a community hierarchy. I am not sure about parent community -it seems to me to be more about history than corrent relationships.
    – Peter
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 14:16

1 Answer 1


You could call your top level categories superordinates and the second-level subcategories subordinates (in this context, the natural antonym to superordinates). From Lexico:

superordinate: A thing that represents a superior order or category within a system of classification.

In your example, sports community would be the superordinate and soccer community, basketball community, etc. would be subordinates.

From an ELU perspective, you might be interested in the terms hypernym and hyponym. Again from Lexico:

hypernym: A word with a broad meaning that more specific words fall under; a superordinate. For example, color is a hypernym of red.

hyponym: A word of more specific meaning than a general or superordinate term applicable to it; contrasted with hypernym. For example, spoon is a hyponym of cutlery.

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