The verb "to telescope" conveys in a picturesque way the meaning that an elongated object slides into itself, so that it becomes smaller. I'm looking for an equally attractive verb to convey the opposite meaning, i.e., that an elongated object extends.

  • Do you mean you want wa word for a shortened object that extends?
    – Mitch
    Apr 22 '12 at 13:17
  • I'm looking for a word for an object that extends or might extend, not necessarily a shortened object.
    – vikkor
    Apr 22 '12 at 13:25
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    I wonder whether 'to telescope' could refer to both directions, getting smaller and getting longer.
    – Mitch
    Apr 22 '12 at 13:26
  • @Mitch I thought the same, but all the dictionaries seem to disagree and usually give definitions similar to the following: to make or become shorter by reducing the length of the parts
    – vikkor
    Apr 22 '12 at 13:35
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    I agree with Mitch. This page on troubleshooting for a material handling crane lists the following problem condition: 12. BOOM DOES NOT TELESCOPE OUT OR TELESCOPES OUT SLOWLY. Apr 22 '12 at 13:43

Untelescope has been used for this.

Searching with Google, though seems to show that @Eugene's suggestion of telescope out is quite a bit more common. If he posted this as an answer I would upvote it.


(Transformed from comment at the suggestion of Peter Shor): Mitch had the right hunch when he wrote:

I wonder whether 'to telescope' could refer to both directions, getting smaller and getting longer

This prompted me to look on the web and indeed, there are a number of web pages that do use "to telescope out" (verb) in the way suggested by Mitch, for example this page on troubleshooting for a materials handling crane, which lists the following problem condition: 12. BOOM DOES NOT TELESCOPE OUT OR TELESCOPES OUT SLOWLY.

As an aside, while I'd be comfortable using "to telescope out", I'd feel more comfortable using "to collapse" in place of "to telescope in".

  • Now does "to telescope" qualify as an auto-antonym? Interesting discussion of auto-antonyms at wordsmith.org. I would say no, because the preposition changes. (A better example of an auto-antonym is the noun "sanction", e.g., "the UN gave sanction to the arrangement" vs. "The Eiger Sanction".) In any case, in a technical text it is surely alright to use "telescope in" and "telescope out", but as I said above, if only the contractive motion is being described then I prefer "to collapse". Apr 22 '12 at 14:52
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    collapse is 3-D, telescope is linear (1-D).
    – Kris
    Apr 22 '12 at 15:08
  • @Kris The action for most collapsible objects (e.g., folding furniture) will indeed be characterized as 3-D. However, people will also refer to (non-folding, but telescopic) cylindrical objects as collapsible, e.g., walking sticks ("collapsible walking stick") or tent poles. There may be a twist lock or a stopper peg but such details are technical. Apr 22 '12 at 15:47
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    @EugeneSeidel I agree that using the terms "to telescope out" and "to telescope in" disambiguates the direction of telescoping. However, if only the verb "to telescope" is used most people will understand that something shrinks. The antonym I'm looking for should thus be a verb that can be used independently from the opposition in/out. My preference right now is for the verb "to untelescope" proposed by Peter Shor.
    – vikkor
    Apr 22 '12 at 15:50
  • From Google, it looks like "to telescope in" as a phrasal verb very rare; usually it's just "to telescope" (which almost always means "to telescope in") or "to telescope out". (Of course, you should say something was "telescoping in and out" rather than "telescoping and telescoping out".) Apr 22 '12 at 16:58

The term to telescope implies extending or contracting in length from within. It was coined in analogy of a telescope's barrel.

Telescopic effect refers to the capability of changing in length (+/-) by 'growing' or 'shrinking' along one axis, so to speak.

To convey specific meaning, we have therefore to say telescope in or telescope out as the case may be.

see also:

Telescoping (mechanics): Telescoping in mechanics describes the movement of one part sliding out from another, lengthening an object ... (from entry on Wikipedia)

  • I agree with this. Even if "to telescope" generally refers to telescoping in, as the dictionaries apparently say, I'm having a hard time imagining an object that would telescope in, but wouldn't also telescope out. Therefore, even with most dictionaries only mentioning the one inward direction in their definitions, I would still assume that any telescopic object was most likely bidirectionally telescopic.
    – J.R.
    Apr 22 '12 at 19:40
  • Added reference from Wikipedia.
    – Kris
    Apr 22 '12 at 22:29

Perhaps crane or protract would be suitable?

  • Retract is a verb that implies folding in on itself. Like a turtle retracts its head into its shell. Or the landing gear of a plane retracts once aloft. So the opposite, protract, could work.
    – JLG
    Apr 22 '12 at 14:59
  • The turtle's neck does not retract into itself (the neck, not the tortoise), but into the shell. The neck is therefore, not telescopic; neck-shell unit could be.
    – Kris
    Apr 22 '12 at 15:13
  • @Kris, what is your point with regard to the OP's question?
    – JLG
    Apr 22 '12 at 23:54

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