As non-English native speaker, I need some help in expressing myself in the following context. Someone sent me a picture that turns opposite (I'm not sure I'm using in the correct words, sorry) so it's difficult to read the text in this picture. (You can compare it with a picture where the head is down and the legs are up).

What is the correct way to express this condition? Can I say "This picture is opposite"?

  • 5
    I agree with both of the answers that upside down is the right choice here. In a more formal context (or particularly in mathematics and the sciences) you might say that the image had been inverted. Commented May 24, 2015 at 21:24

4 Answers 4


The term you're looking for is "upside down".

in such a way that the upper and the lower parts are reversed in position

Like this:

Upside down image


I agree with Catija and believe that the word you are looking for is:

upside down:

With the upper part where the lower part should be; in an inverted position

This means that the picture would be in a normal position if you rotated it 180 degrees.

But most image processing and viewing programs have the option to

rotate the image or to

flip it:

Turn over or cause to turn over with a sudden quick movement

so you can get it in the upright position and read the text.

Edit: The second one will also turn it 'face down' so to speak (even if you flip it vertically), but sometimes this is what was done to it in the first place (so there might be two reasons for not being able to read the text - see Catija's comments below).

  • Technically, you would be "rotating" the image. If you "flip" it, it could end up being backwards laterally... so text would be illegible.
    – Catija
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 21:22
  • @Catija I thought so as well (and in real life it is as you say) but since ODO listed 'flip' as one of the synonyms I tried it in my version of ACDSee and under rotate there are options 'flip vertically' and 'flip horizontally': the first one turns the image upside down, the second one produces mirror-image. I was surprised but that's how software developers see the usage of the word "flip" :-)
    – Lucky
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 21:28
  • Right, but take some text, use "rotate" to turn it upside down and then "flip" it horizontally. The text will be backwards.
    – Catija
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 21:31
  • @Catja - indeed you are right! Fascinating... If you check both "flip horizontally" and "flip vertically" then you get it upside down... (I guess because it flips it twice, so it gets flipped to the proper side again). I'll figure out how to edit the post, thanks :-)
    – Lucky
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 21:35

Catija and Lucky are correct to say that the picture is upside down.

More formally, this picture is a reflection. In particular, it is vertically reflected.

  • Welcome to ELL Stack Exchange! This is a useful addition, but it's not a full answer as it you wrote it. Each answer should answer the question completely, even if parts of the answer are just references to other answers. I'll edit your answer to give you an example.
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 4:24
  • Even still, I think this answer doesn't recognize that the picture may have been rotated, rather than reflected. Could you improve it further?
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 4:26

Good question! It depends on how the image was turned. If it was turned only in a 2 dimensional way, as you would a physical photo, the image would be rotated. A 180' rotation would be upside down.

But electronic pictures, like photographic negatives, can be turned in 3 dimensions. "Flipping" is the typical word in this case. Real-life usage of "flipping" is sloppy, but it is generally used to refer to a 3-dimensional action, e.g. "I flipped the playing cards over to reveal their face." Flipping gives you a "mirror image". (1)

If the image is only rotated, in 2 dimensions - you could easily read it by rotating it back to the original viewing position. Your example might be flipped, and rotated to get it upside down. See the graphic I have provided.

You COULD use the word "opposite" - but it would need the proper context, and I do not think it conveys the meaning you want at all. "Opposite" would normally apply only to the images inside the picture - and not to the picture itself. Example: "The people are standing opposite their positions in the original!" This would be understood by most people to mean that the picture had been transposed, or flipped, from left to right. Head and foot oppositeness would be upside-down.

I have drawn up a graphic to illustrate rotating and flipping. Rotating and flipping an image.

You should also look at the usage of "tranpose", as it is similar in usage. Flipping also transposes the elements of the picture. What was on the left is now on the right, or top/bottom, etc.

Notice that #4, flipped on a horizontal axis, would be the same effect as if you flipped on a vertical axis, and then rotated 180 degrees.

(1) I am ignoring the tense aspect of the verbs for this description. I think you will figure that out a-ok on your own.

  • I don't think this is a good answer at all. The natural terms are "rotated" for turning the image around and "reflected" or "mirrored" for giving the appearance of being reflected in a mirror. To me, "flipped" suggests "mirrored" rather than "rotated". If you said you'd "transposed" an image, I'd have no idea what you meant and would have to ask for clarification. Also, if said it had been "rotated in three dimensions", it would take a long time to figure out that you meant it had been mirrored. "Opposite" would not convey any precise meaning and cannot be recommended. Commented May 25, 2015 at 8:13
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    @DavidRicherby This answer makes sense from a rather mathematical perspective, but it could be worded more clearly. You're right that 'transpose' is not the best word, but one could talk about rotating and reflecting by transposing corners.
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 4:23
  • For clarity, I think the best method would be a graphic reference and example for each word. They each indicate a different action. Hmmm - that might be a good idea - picture examples. I might add some if I find time.
    – Mark G B
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 2:26
  • Ok - added graphics.
    – Mark G B
    Commented Dec 7, 2015 at 1:16

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