The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines transverse as placed across something and gives the following example sentence and synonym:

A transverse bar joins the two posts.

-> Synonym: diagonal

I am wondering whether diagonal and transverse would mean the same if the former were used in the example sentence.

I'd appreciate your help.

  • Yes, there can be used interchangeably in the sentence: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user29952
    Jul 7, 2018 at 6:42
  • 2
    @user5768790 They're absolutely not interchangeable. The Cambridge dictionary even goes so far as to state transverse is 90° [which I wouldn't have insisted on, merely 'crosswise'], whereas diagonal, if you're going to insist on specifying an angle, is going to be more like 45°. Jul 7, 2018 at 9:39
  • All diagonals are transverse, but not all that is transverse is diagonal. Not all uses of transverse involve perpendicularity.The word is given a prescriptive definition in certain domains.
    – TimR
    Jul 7, 2018 at 13:47
  • Are all vertical and horizontal lines transverse?
    – Apollyon
    Jul 9, 2018 at 16:40

1 Answer 1


Although they are synonyms 'transverse' and ' diagonal' do not necessarily mean the same thing. Without knowing exactly what the writer meant when they chose the word 'transverse' to describe the bar,it is not possible to determine if the writer intended 'transverse' to mean 'diagonal'.

Common synonyms of transverse, excluding diagonal, include:

  • At an angle

  • Oblique

  • Horizontal

  • At an angle of 90° to something else

If the writer meant that the bar joins the two posts but runs at an oblique angle between them (i.e. neither parallel or at 90°), then diagonal would be an acceptable replacement for transverse.

If the writer meant that the bar joins the two posts but runs horizontally between them, intersecting them at an angle of 90°, then diagonal would not be an acceptable replacement for transverse.

  • If one post is attached upright to the ground and the other is attached to the ground at a slant, can the transverse bar that joins the two be called a diagonal bar?
    – Apollyon
    Jul 7, 2018 at 8:58
  • @Apollyon I have a science background, so I tend to think of transverse as meaning something that meets something else at an angle of 90°, e.g. a transverse wave. So, I would not normally regard a bar joined in the way you mentioned to be a transverse bar, but I could think of it as being diagonal.
    – James
    Jul 7, 2018 at 9:55
  • @Apollyon I'll preface this by saying I'm not a native speaker of English, but we have the same terms in my first language. Diagonal usually means (i.e., outside mathematics) "slanted" or "at an angle". Something that's placed diagonally needn't even connect anything. This is an example of a diagonal line. Something transversal connects two sides. Usually these sides are on the right and on the left. It doesn't matter if the sides themselves are slanted a bit (as in your example). So a bar connecting upright and slanted posts in any fashion is transversal.
    – user3395
    Jul 7, 2018 at 15:37
  • Actually, something transversal doesn't have to connect two things; I was merely describing the meaning of the word in the context of your example. A transversal bar can just lie across something (perhaps just air, but it usually implies some two sides, two ends). Of course, I disagree with James's comment because I have no idea how they were able to surmise that the connecting bar is placed diagonally. It's definitely transversal but we can't tell whether it's diagonal based on just what you said.
    – user3395
    Jul 7, 2018 at 15:44
  • A transversal bar can connect the two sides of a V-shaped construction to form something akin to the letter A (when turned upside down), with the transversal bar in the middle being slanted a little, or being perfectly horizontal as in the mentioned glyph. Also, the transversal bar needn't necessarily connect the two sides of the V perfectly; its ends might well be sticking out a bit. However, as noted in the comment by the user Tetsujin, it'd normally be understood as horizontal.
    – user3395
    Jul 7, 2018 at 15:46

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