Anonymous asked in Education & ReferenceWords & Wordplay · 1 decade ago

"Ruthless" - is there an name for words like this?

There are some words which look as though they are constructed as opposites to a root word, but we never (or hardly ever) use the root by itself. We describe people as 'Ruthless' but don't use 'Ruthful'.

Another example is 'disjointed' - you might describe what somebody said as 'disjointed' but has anybody ever called a sentence 'jointed'?

I've seen a website once with a list of this type of word, but I've lost the URL - anybody know it?

Surely, with so many odd words in English to describe aspects of the language itself, there is a posh word for these 'orphan opposites'.


Sorry about the typo in the heading/question - whoops.

6 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    u sure got me thinking there.. and all my "googling" is to no avail!!!!!!

    {begin edited version : upon scrathing my brains further and combining all possible "fancy words i know i came up with "absent antonyms" and guess what indeer there is such a thing in the English the term see what comes up!! i dont know if that help you.. but i can sleep in peace...!!! yippie yay for me!!! end edited version}

    although ruthful does have a meaning


    One entry found for ruthful.

    Main Entry: ruth·ful

    Pronunciation: 'rüth-f&l

    Function: adjective

    1 : full of ruth : TENDER

    2 : full of sorrow : WOEFUL

    3 : causing sorrow

    - ruth·ful·ly /-f&-lE/ adverb

    - ruth·ful·ness noun

    and jointed is an adjective too!!!

    although im so curious to know if there indeed a term for those words.. so you gonna be on my watchlist:)

    PS : try the link below.. i googled "absent antonyms" and tahts one of the things that showed... how about those 10 points then eh?


  • 1 decade ago

    I think there is not a word for what you describe, although maybe there should be!

    The thing is, for a lot of these words, that the word is not a combination of -- to use "disheveled" for an example -- "dis" + "heveled." "Disheveled" is from the Old French "descheveler," meaning "to rumple or muss the hair." So, it's not "un-heveled," it's from another language altogether. Does that make sense?

    "Ruthless," however, does indeed mean "absense of ruth" or something similar. Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines the noun "ruth" as, "1. pity or compassion. 2. sorrow or grief. 3. self-reproach; contrition; remorse." There is also an entry for "ruthful," believe it or not, meaning, "1. compassionate or sorrowful. 2. causing or apt to cause sorrow or pity. 3. feeling remorse or self-reproach." Who knew?

    There is also "jointed," which basically means the opposite of "disjointed."

    Obviously, "ruthful" and "jointed" are rarely used!

    If you do find the website for "orphan opposites" (I like that term!), would you please come back here and post it? I honestly don't think there's a proper, official term for it, but I'd love to be proven wrong.

    Source(s): Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary:
  • 1 decade ago

    I am so whelmed by the possibility that a ruthful man like that could be so vincible after all. I am not dizzy, but rather very oriented and feeling very membered. Unlike a fortress, I am very pregnable.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Who Cares?

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  • 1 decade ago

    'orphan opposites' is a pretty cool name for it why not stick with that?

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    adamant, barbarous, brutal, callous, cold, cold-blooded, cruel, cutthroat, feral, ferocious, fierce, grim, hard, hard-hearted, harsh, heartless, implacable, inexorable, inhuman, ironfisted, killer, malevolent, merciless, mortal, obdurate, pitiless, rancorous, relentless, remorseless, revengeful, sadistic, savage, severe, stern, stony, surly, unappeasable, unfeeling, unforgiving, unmerciful, unrelenting, unsympathetic, unyielding, vicious, vindictive, without pity

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