Is it possible to know the meaning of "She upended the chessboard." without a context, because of upending means "up..." and "down..." that depends on the context.

For example, here https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/upend?q=upending we have the sentence:

"She upended the chessboard halfway through the game because she was losing."

I figure out, to start a new game, somebody must say:

Upend the chessboard halfway and let's start a new game.

My question is about the possibility if that possibility exists, that same syntax (upend) can have the opposite meaning, not different but opposite. I am expecting the answer "Yes" or "No" and some examples.

In Google translate for Croatian language stay:


"Oboriti" = overthrow, topple, bring down, knock down, fell, upend

"Uspraviti" = straighten, hold up, upend

The Croatian word "Oboriti" is opposite to Croatian word "Uspraviti" but both words in the English we can translate with upend.

My one example:

The vase has been upended, please upend it to stay like before.

But does these "The vase has been upended (overthrow, topple, bring down, knock down, fell, upend), please upend (straighten, hold up, upend) it to stay like before." explains why I ask the question? Why "upend" is in both of this group of verbs?

Wait a minute, wait a minute.

None of you have thought: "Why somebody has been translating 'upend' in some other language like that? Is there somewhere something in the real world of a native speaker reason for that?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ColleenV
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 17:33

4 Answers 4


The meaning of "She upended the chessboard" is very clear to me. She suddenly lifted one side of the chessboard, causing all the pieces to be knocked over or otherwise move away from their positions. It is possible that all of the pieces fell off, and were scattered across the table and/or fell onto the floor. It is also possible that she lifted the side of the board enough to cause the board to completely flip over.

The original poster noticed that "upended" can be translated into opposite terms in Croatian: oboriti means "overturn", whereas uspraviti means "uphold". Notice that the initial action in "upending" is "lifting one side" of the object, and the overall effect is to "overturn" the object. Thus, oboriti is the better translation of "upend": It describes the intent and effect of the verb. Whereas uspraviti is too literal a translation; it only translates the "lifting" part of the action, not its intent or effect.

It is possible that "She accidentally upended the chessboard." For example, somebody might have bumped into her chair, causing her knee to strike the table, causing the chessboard to be upended.

In the dictionary example, "halfway" modifies "through the game", not "upended".

If she was halfway through the chess game, and then "She upended the chessboard because she was losing", then it is safe to assume that "She is a sore loser." Her actions are consistent with someone who is frustrated about losing, and does not have control of her temper.

If she had wanted to politely agree that her opponent had won, then she could have either said "I resign", or flipped over her king. Then she could have said, "Let's start a new game", or asked something like, "Play again?" or "Do you want a rematch?" or "Best two out of three?"


You have made an assumption that the second sentence

Upend the chessboard halfway and let's start a new game.

is a valid thing to say. If someone upends a chess board, you almost certainly won't be starting another game.

  • Look at my edited question.
    – b2ok
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 10:34
  • Sure you can. It doesn't mean the pieces were thrown across the room. In fact, you can upend it (a vertical motion) and the board does not have to be move horizontally at all...
    – Lambie
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 20:27
  • 2
    @Lambie what I mean is, if a losing player throws a tantrum, and the board, it is unlikely anyone will want another game. Commented May 6, 2019 at 20:34

Cambridge Dictionary"

"She upended the chessboard halfway through the game because she was losing."

OP: I figured out, to start a new game, somebody must say:

Upend the chessboard halfway and let's start a new game.

Answer: To start a new game, it seems that what is meant is to "clear the chessboard of pieces". Yes, you could upend it and the pieces would all slide down as given in the Cambridge example which would indicate annoyance or anger. If you upend the board and the pieces fall off, that is rather brusque.

To start a new game, you need to clear the pieces off the board or clear the board of pieces. You might upend the board, but it's somewhat messy and you definitely would not do that if you are playing in a park with people you don't know. It would probably be considered rude.

Generally, one would use a horizontal motion rather than a vertical motion to clear pieces off a board. Upending is a vertical motion. Clearing is a horizontal one.

Upend means that one end of some thing rises vertically into the air or is placed or pushed vertically up.

To illustrate upend, here is an image: upended car

  • But the car in normal position, like you say horizontal, is also 'upend' compered with a car on the left or right side. Yes or No?
    – b2ok
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 16:35
  • 1
    @b2ok Ok, last chance. :) Upend only concerns the top and bottom of a thing. It does not involve the sides of a thing. If a car turns on its side, it turns (over) onto its side. Upend is always vertical, which is why it contains the word end.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 16:37
  • Here we are! "Upend is always vertical." But that "vertical" is sometimes the wrong position like in chessboard and your pictures, and sometimes is correct (opposite of the wrong) like for a vase. The same word 'upend' sometimes lead us to something wrong, and sometimes to something correct. Do you agree?
    – b2ok
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 16:45
  • 1
    @b2ok It is not about right and wrong. It's about the position in space of a thing. And I cannot help you anymore with this. I have covered it completely.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 17:05

There are several good answers here already. To address the example at the end of your question - whether this makes sense in English:

The vase has been upended, please upend it to stay like before.

I don't think so.

The vase has been upended - this means it has been knocked sideways. So it went from something that looks like | to something that looks like __ .

Please upend it to stay like before - this part doesn't make sense to me. I wouldn't use upend to mean going from __ to | - only the other way around (as in the first part of the sentence). I think instead you should say "Please set it back upright" or "Please put it back upright".

  • If the vase has been upended, it has not be knocked sideways. upending is a vertical thing.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 20:26
  • @Lambie in that case, would upending a vase mean turning it upside down (180 degrees) ? I think in this context it means "knocked over", which would usually be sideways.
    – Mixolydian
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 3:10
  • Upend is upend. It means that a thing ends up on its end. If a vase is upended, where it opens would face downwards and its base would face upwards.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 15:30

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