Given two words like "reward" and "punishment", which are opposite in meaning in that one is positive and the other is negative, what would you call a word that encompasses both of these words?

Depending on your behavior, you will be (single word for rewarded or punished) appropriately.

So for this question, I'm actually looking for two words:

  • What is a word that encompasses both reward and punishment?
  • What would you call the above word if you wanted to look for terms like this for other word pairs? In short, what would you google if you wanted to know what to call both a reward and punishment?
  • Note to would-be commenters: If you are contributing what could be an answer, please write an answer.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 8, 2021 at 8:34
  • SynnKo: Please don't ask two questions at once. I would suggest the second question is most useful, as it would allow you to look for answers to the first.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 8, 2021 at 8:36
  • 1
    I'm not sure what the second question is asking for. I doubt there actually is a hypernym covering both reward and punishment (and "no reaction" as an "mid-point" on the continuum high rewards - > low rewards -> light punishment -> severe punishment), but for words that more naturally fit into categories like this, it's easy to identify the "answer" word colour by Googling hypernym red green blue. Or there's this Q on SE Linguistics referring to my "red green blue" (OP's "reward punishment"?) as co-hyponyms Oct 8, 2021 at 11:50
  • I don't think there is a single word for this idea except in expressions such as "a love-hate relationship". Is love-hate a single word?
    – Lambie
    Oct 8, 2021 at 13:17
  • I don't think that this is a duplicate of that question about words which may be the opposites of themselves. I think this question seeks a single word of universal application to denote a pair of different words which suggest the opposite ends of some spectrum of some quality - like reward and punishment or love and hate or duplicate and unique. Oct 8, 2021 at 16:17

2 Answers 2


For the sentence

Depending on your behavior, you will be (single word for rewarded or punished) appropriately.

I'd suggest the word treat, thusly

Depending on your behavior, you will be treated appropriately.

Chambers defines treat as to deal with; to handle (and a fair bit besides, but those are the germane meanings here). In isolation a treat is more likely to be a reward than a punishment, it fits the sentence in the question, but may fall short of being a general replacement in similar sentences.

As to the second part of the question, I don't have any useful suggestions for a single word. But my search strategy would include finding synonyms for both terms and looking for common words. From the dictionary on my desk I found desert(s) as a synonym for both reward and punishment. Admittedly, this suggests my search strategy is not a terrifically good one, but it did find a word synonymous with both others!


For your second question, I suggest thinking about the "semantic axis", space, or category that the two words lie on or occupy. If you believe that reward and punishment are indeed opposites, then ask yourself How so? In what way? Google the two words together or look for book or article titles that contain both words: the title or webpage might contain the axis, category or word you are looking for.

In formulating you example question, you brought in the word person because it felt natural to apply the words to someone. As you add words, try googling all of them or various combinations.

  • So you mean semantic axis, by an chance? Generally, linguistics, we say semantic trait and semantic field.
    – Lambie
    Oct 8, 2021 at 13:19
  • Typo corrected, thanks. Yes, if specifically two-dimensional, like speed, temperature, etc. There are books on semantic space.
    – DjinTonic
    Oct 8, 2021 at 13:21

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