The two sides of a coin are called obverse and reverse:

Obverse and its opposite, reverse, refer to the two flat faces of coins and some other two-sided objects...

But dictionary gives their meanings as:

obverse: the other side of something

reverse: the opposite of what has been suggested

So I lost my logic here. While reverse is somewhat similar to back, obverse doesn't look like front but the other. They really look like synonyms rather than antonyms. I was wondering whether obverse is an antonym of reverse?

For example, in reverse order means back to front. Can we say in obverse order which means front to back? I've never seen such a use. in normal order sounds more natural. But why don't we call the two sides of a coin as normal and reverse then?

  • Obverse is not in common usage. Few would understand what you were trying to say.
    – Andrew
    Nov 18, 2018 at 18:56
  • Obverse is used for specialized things like coins etc. As given in the linked Wikipedia entry. It isn't used in ordinary speech.
    – Lambie
    Nov 18, 2018 at 19:16

2 Answers 2


Obverse in the sense ‘turned towards the observer’ is from the Latin obversus, past participle of obvertere ‘turn towards’. Obverse and reverse are antonyms in specific circumstances only - when referring to coins and some other two-sided objects e.g. paper money, flags, medals, etc. The principal or more important side, e.g. (of a coin) that showing the monarch's head, is the 'obverse'. The 'reverse' is the other side. In other circumstances, obverse means the opposite or other side of something, such as the counterpart of a fact or truth or the opposite of an opinion, situation, or argument: “no one is infallible” is the obverse of “everyone is fallible”.

We would not say 'in obverse order' for the reasons above, and as for why we don't call the two sides of a coin 'normal' and 'reverse', that is a request for an opinion, which is off-topic.



Confusion can arise in the following manner: obverse and reverse

for coins etc. those are the terms, as given in the Wikipedia article. They are not really used in everyday speech.

The face of the coin (obverse) and the back of a coin (reverse)

In everyday speech, we would say in many contexts:

  • the right side and the reverse side [of some thing, such as a canvas with a painting on it, or a piece of clothing, or a piece of metal that faces outward,say, on a car]. Reverse sides are sometimes called the back side,too. The back side of the moon. [the side that cannot be seen from Earth].

  • So: one side of something or the right side of something and the other side of something, orthe reverse side. Both this point and the previous one are for objects in general that have two sides but that are not coins, flags etc.

  • the order of a series: A, B, C and D. The reverse [order] is: D,C, B and A

For abstract things, you can say one argument is the reverse of another.

What you are calling the normal side is usually called the "right side" or "the side facing [someone] or "the side facing out" in English.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .