English has certain words that almost always go together. For example:

  • Wreak
  • Excruciating
  • Vastly

Reading that list, most native speakers will expect to see "havoc", "pain", and "superior" respectively. While you could "wreak destruction", that usage is very uncommon compared to "wreak havoc".

My primary question: Is there a name for this kind of word relationship?

Secondary questions:

  • Is there a reason this happens in our language?
  • Can you list any other examples of these pairs?

Funny side note: Not knowing what to call this concept makes it a little tricky to pick meaningful tags.

  • 3
    They are [strong] collocations, and the individual terms are collocates. The Oxford Dictionary of Collocations is full of them. If there is a syntactic requirement, the term 'colligation' is used. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 22 '20 at 16:43
  • 4
    Does this answer your question? What do you call the frequent conjunction {juxtaposition} of two words? – Edwin Ashworth Jul 22 '20 at 16:45
  • @EdwinAshworth not quite. The linked question seems to be about any pair of words. I'm specifically asking about pairs where one word is rarely used without the second. I'll update my question to clarify. – vastlysuperiorman Jul 22 '20 at 16:49
  • @EdwinAshworth, it does seem that "collocations" is the right word for it. Maybe this was a poor question to begin with, but thank you for pointing me to the Oxford Dictionary of Collocations. That's really what I was looking for. – vastlysuperiorman Jul 22 '20 at 16:54
  • That's interesting. I don't automatically envisage "vastly" next to "superior". The others, maybe. – Isabel Archer Jul 23 '20 at 22:01

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