There are two opposite concepts:

  • real, persistent, static, physical (something what really exists)
  • virtual, transient, dynamic (something what lives in imagine or based on real world but not really exists)

I wondered if there a word including both concepts?

For example "black" and "white" could be interpreted as opposites and common word for both is "color".

Another examples:

  • availability: enabled vs disabled
  • direction: left vs right or up vs down
  • 1
    You could try tangibility although it is not a hugely common word. I would expect even some native speakers to not know what it means Dec 22, 2022 at 9:42
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    I don't understand your examples. Something real could be dynamic, and something virtual could be persistent. Can you edit your question to clarify what the opposition is? Dec 22, 2022 at 16:12
  • I'm not sure where you're going with this either. A floating soap bubble is real & physical; not persistent or static, rather transient & dynamic. Dec 22, 2022 at 18:26
  • I think this needs context. What are you describing? For example, I would use "medium" to describe the difference between "virtual" and "traditional" art (and also between the different types of those).
    – Laurel
    Dec 23, 2022 at 17:03

3 Answers 3


I think the word you are looking for is 'medium'. Cambridge dictionary gives the definition as "a method or way of expressing something". The plural in this particular sense is media.

For example, the delivery method of a movie is often referred to as the 'medium', which could be physical like a DVD or virtual like a download or streaming service. Likewise, a newspaper is something you can physically hold, but a television news broadcast is not something tangible. Collectively, all these things are called 'media'.

Another example is in medicine. Clinicians refer to the consultation medium as being either a face-to-face appointment with a patient, or a 'virtual' meeting such as a telephone or video call. You may also need to use the word 'medium' alongside some other word to fit the context of whatever you are talking about.

As an aside, the direct antonym of 'virtual' is 'actual'. I know that isn't your question, but the problem with 'real' is that it can mean 'true' and not necessarily tangible. For example, a video game based on football might be considered a 'virtual' game in contrast with an in-person game of football, but the video game is still real - it's not imaginary. But we could debate that all day.

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    "the direct synonym of 'virtual' is 'actual'" No, it's not. It's virtually its antonym. [see what I did there;) i don't think we can answer this as it stands. The question is just too unclear. Dec 22, 2022 at 18:28
  • @Tetsujin That was clearly a mistake, I meant antonym. Thanks for downvoting on a typo.
    – Astralbee
    Dec 22, 2022 at 22:37
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    To ass|u|me makes an ass out of u and me. Just because I commented doesn't mean I downvoted. I presume this is why I got the revenge downvote on the other question. Try to behave like an adult, thank you. i.stack.imgur.com/Kup2v.png Dec 23, 2022 at 8:33

Philosophy texts are littered with such words. "ontological" or "effability" and so on.

Virtual environments engage millions of people and billions of dollars each year. What is the ontological status of the virtual objects that populate those environments? —David Leech Anderson, quoted in Mirriam Webster.

If you are not a philosopher, you probably don't actually need a word, and you should do what a native speaker would do: use a phrase such as "whether something is real or virtual"

So instead of talking about the "ontological status of unicorns" you would say

Whether unicorns are real or imaginary does not prevent us from picturing them...



We refer to your first group of nouns generally as "concrete", and to the second group as "abstract".

As far as I know, there is no word in English that refers to this binary quality of whether something is concrete or abstract, but if the intent is clear enough in the context, "concreteness" makes sense.

Like, if you need a name for a variable in a computer program, "concreteness" works.

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