ob·​verse | \ äb-ˈvərs How to pronounce obverse (audio) , əb-, ˈäb-ˌvərs\

Definition of obverse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : facing the observer or opponent
2 : having the base narrower than the top an obverse leaf
3 : constituting the obverse of something : opposite


ob·​verse | \ ˈäb-ˌvərs How to pronounce obverse (audio) , äb-ˈvərs, əb-ˈvərs\

Definition of obverse (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the side of a coin or currency note bearing the chief device and lettering broadly : a front or principal surface
2 : a counterpart having the opposite orientation or force their rise was merely the obverse of the Empire's fall— A. J. Toynbee also : opposite sense 1 joy and its obverse, sorrow
3 : a proposition inferred immediately from another by denying the opposite of what the given proposition affirms the obverse of "all A is B" is "no A is not B" 

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Other Words from obverse


obversely adverb

Did You Know?


Heads or tails? If you called heads, obverse is the word for you. Since the 17th century, we've been using obverse for the front side of coins (usually, the side depicting the head or bust of a ruler). The opposite of this sense of obverse is reverse, the back or "tails" side of a coin. Since the 19th century, obverse has also had the extended meaning "an opposing counterpart" or "opposite." Additionally, it can be an adjective meaning "facing the observer or opponent" or "being a counterpoint or complement."

Examples of obverse in a Sentence


joy and its obverse, sadness We thought they would be pleased with our decision. We have learned, however, that the obverse is true.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Hot-air balloons are the obverse of modern aeronautical advances, the beautiful black sheep to the success story of the airplane. María Gainza, Harper's magazine, "Both Sides Now," 10 May 2019 The rule of raw power is the obverse of the rule of law. WSJ, "Haspel, the CIA, Government and Morality," 23 May 2018 Rental apologies, the obverse of rental scoldings, can be particularly thorny. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, "Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry," 23 Apr. 2018 In one of the adjacent rooms, coin dealer Donald Kagin of Tiburon was displaying his treasure: the plain obverse quint, first coin ever minted by the United States. Leah Garchik, San Francisco Chronicle, "George Shultz is honored, pays tribute to Alexander Hamilton," 13 Jan. 2018 But the conviction that the truth must be mathematically elegant can easily lead to a false obverse: that what is mathematically elegant must be true. The Economist, "Particle physicsFundamental physics is frustrating physicists," 13 Jan. 2018 If the commonwealth’s argument was that each defendant shared in a collective guilt, the defense case was the obverse: that this was a tragedy of the commons. Benjamin Wallace, vanityfair.com, "How a Fatal Frat Hazing Became Penn State’s Latest Campus Crisis," 3 Oct. 2017 The obverse of bullying the vulnerable is protecting them, and Donald Trump has inherited a world where an awful lot of people need protecting. Sebastian Junger, The Hive, "How Donald Trump Could Stop Being a Coward," 25 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'obverse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of obverse


circa 1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1658, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for obverse


Latin obversus, from past participle of obvertere to turn toward, from ob- toward + vertere to turn — more at ob-, worth

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Time Traveler for obverse

The first known use of obverse was circa 1656

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English Language Learners Definition of obverse

formal : something that is the opposite of something else

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recurring in steady succession

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