Is there an antonym for the verb besiege? asked for an “opposite” for the word besiege, with answers like occupy, barricade, where the person doing the barricading is inside the barrier, defending his position from outsiders. In a siege, the person doing the barricading is outside, cutting off those inside.

The antonym of besiege is relieve: a siege is lifted.

Barricade is not an antonym of besiege, even though the sense is “opposite”; it could be a synonym of besiege if the siege is realised by a barricade. However occupy isn't a synonym of besiege as the meanings are very different. It's also not the antonym of besiege.

So the relationship between besiege and barricade/occupy is not one of synonyms or antonyms. Is there a -nym word — or indeed any other word — which describes this opposite direction of action (for want of a better term)?

Since I've used the SWR tag, an example sentence would be “Occupy is an _____________ of besiege.

Note: the concept of siege can “work both ways”, with a siege mentality applying to those barricade themselves in. I mention that here only to show that occupy only “works one way”, in a different “direction” to besiege.

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    In view of he fact that so many posts on this site abuse the word antonym, this is an important question, but it may be helpful if you could give more examples of the relationship that the question is about. I fear that, in its present form, the question will lead some of the respondents to focus on the one example given, rather than think of the general concept that it is meant to be an example of.
    – jsw29
    Mar 13 at 15:52
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    Synonym and antonym are grade-school terms. The actual details of semantic opposition are much more complex. The best description of antonymy is Ken Hale's classic paper "A note on a Walbiri tradition of antonymy". It describes a real-life situation where one needs an antonym for everything -- "upside-down Walbiri". Mar 13 at 19:30
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    @JohnLawler, yes, but the OP already knows that; the question is seeking a term that captures one particular kind of relationship, and makes it clear that antonym is not that term. Antonym appears in the question only to provide contrast to what the question is about.
    – jsw29
    Mar 13 at 21:13
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    @AndrewLeach I couldn't be sure that it is the absolute right answer hence I put as a useful comment. Your example is rather a unique semantic relationship. They may as well be co-hyponyms where they share the same hypernym (blockade or siege possibly), but it is not clear-cut also. As the term "near antonym" covers the vagueness of the semantic opposition, it might be an apt term for the given situation. I sometimes put my comments as an answer, if the OP is satisfied also. I don't prefer to answer or even comment lately but this is a very good and nuanced question indeed.
    – ermanen
    Mar 18 at 21:43
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    @Lambie Passive voice is not relevant. And Mafeking was relieved.
    – Andrew Leach
    Mar 19 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


Inverse? It’s a bit mathematical but I believe the relation is the same. Going to school is the inverse of coming from school. The opposite of going to school would be not going to school. Inverses have multiplicative identity, which means that if the actions are applied in any order, then you should arrive where you began. Although, there is also additive identity (conjugate) which I don’t believe would make a difference when applied to the English language (because there isn’t a lexical distinction between the additive and multiplicative actions). So conjugate can be used as well.

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