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I am looking for antonyms (nouns) of "target". Here, I meant target in the sense

"something that one hopes or intends to accomplish" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/target)

or in my words

"something that one aims to hit".

So my antonym would be "something that one aims to miss". So for example, when I am have a shooting target, that would be the outside of the middle, e.g. where the straw is.

I mean something I want to avoid. It is more of a "binary situation". Let's say I have a bunch of mushrooms some of which are tasty and some are poisonous. The tasty ones are my target and I want to hit them (= get them on my plate), but the other ones I want to avoid = make sure they are not on my plate. You could also call the target my "positive target" and the other one my "negative target", but that would be confusing for non-technical readers. And my readers are very non-technical.

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  • If a good single-word antonym doesn't emerge, a workaround might use target as a verb: You want to target X while avoiding Y.
    – DjinTonic
    Jul 31, 2021 at 12:26
  • @DjinTonic: I need a noun though. E.g. I need to use it in graphics.
    – Make42
    Jul 31, 2021 at 12:29
  • 2
    Why does every word have to have an antonym?
    – Robusto
    Jul 31, 2021 at 13:27
  • @Robusto What;s the antonym of "grasshopper"? "Hard-surface walker on all legs" presumably?
    – WS2
    Jul 31, 2021 at 15:10
  • 1
    Words can have many antonyms. Nemesis might be one for target.
    – Xanne
    Aug 1, 2021 at 0:09

3 Answers 3

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Noun
nontarget (plural nontargets)

  1. That which is not a target. Wiktionary

First subjects were trained to search for occurrence of any one of five target words among a list of semantically unrelated nontargets. Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading, Vol. 1 (1994) p.874

As wind speed increases, the impingement force of spray droplets will increase on targets and nontargets. This situation creates considerable variation in control efficacy and can often influence whether the effects on nontargets are minimal or substantial. Encyclopedia of Environmental Management (2012) p.1472

These new data will be used for risk assessment of nontargets to treated baits and snake carcasses containing the acetaminophen. Research Update (2001) p.8

Although I found an example of the adjective nontarget dating back to a 1832 SCOTUS document (nontarget species), definitions of the word as an adjective (more common) or noun seem to get short shrift.

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For things like poisonous mushrooms, or other undesirable items amongst a mix of desirable and undesirable items, an appropriate word could be bogeys.

In terms of physically shooting at a target, the non-target area could be considered the wild or the rough.

Also, usually a "target" is conceived as a relatively small area of a much larger environment. If the general situation is the opposite, where the desirable area is large with relatively small areas to avoid, you'd might call the small areas traps.

The word target has many senses, so there is no single antonym that covers them all.

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    +1 for bogey, though in military usage one might expect to target bogies, not miss them intentionally.
    – Lawrence
    Aug 10, 2021 at 5:43
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    @Lawrence, that's a good point. In the military situation, you are targeting malefactors for elimination. I suppose this shows that bogey is not a true antonym - it more reflects on the desirability of the thing, which in some contexts might imply that it wouldn't be targeted, but in others implies that it would be targeted.
    – Steve
    Aug 10, 2021 at 7:06
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The exact phrase and context for your "target" could be useful. It might have a natural antonym in its domain or there might be correct choices that might not convey the message you're hoping for.

For example, some options:

  • If the targets are something the reader desires, anything else would be undesirable. Similarly, unideal.
  • If there are two types of targets (tasty and otherwise) and the goal is for the reader to be able to identify them, then the others could be referred to as false positives or decoys.
  • If the material is sufficiently colloquial, you could use natural labels instead ("delicious" and "gross") - and forgo the complication of finding an antonym altogether.
  • If the material is visual and instructional, you could verbs such as "collect" and "avoid" instead.
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  • Thanks, that gave me the idea that "counter-point" or "contrary" might be alternatives for the antonym I am searching for...
    – Make42
    Aug 12, 2021 at 16:25

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