Rate Your Adversarial Relationship

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Simon Bar Sinister
In a recent email discussion with several chickenmonkeydog readers, we came upon the idea of "degrees of animosity" in relationships between two persons or groups in opposition. Now, we don’t claim that this list is exhaustive or even organized correctly, so that’s why we’ve turned to you!

Please (via comments) help us out by suggesting additional levels that we need to add, or if you disagree with the order of the levels currently please go ahead and voice that opinion as well.

Ranked from least to greatest degrees of "enmity":

  • Opponent
  • Rival
  • Arch Rival
  • Enemy
  • Bitter Enemy
  • Sworn Enemy
  • Nemesis
  • Mortal Enemy
  • Arch Enemy
  • Arch Nemesis
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  1. Although I wasn’t involved in the initial email exchange, I think the suggested ordering is pretty good.

    That said, it does get a bit tricky towards the end of the list.

    Wouldn’t a mortal enemy be the greatest degree of enmity, even greater than Arch Anything? I mean, you can’t dislike someone more than wanting to kill them. Even just wishing they were dead is less severe than wanting to kill them, which I think is what a mortal enemy tries to do.

  2. @ Liam…I had thought that a mortal enemy was merely an enemy to the death, as in mortal combat. If that is the case, you could have many enemies who will be your enemy until you die, but I think that arch is the ultimate and you could only have one. Thus in my logic, arch should be higher.

  3. So, Mark, are you suggesting that the term ‘Arch’ might imply ‘mortal’ as well? If so, then I could concede that Arch Enemy is of the greatest enmity.

  4. I would think mortal ends with death, where as arch lasts beyond death, justifying its higher ranking.

  5. What about enemies who’s hatred is passed down in a hereditary manner?

    On one hand, it outlasts mere “mortal” enmity since it lasts past death; still, I have to think that inherited hatred can’t be as strong as the initial antagonistic relationship.

  6. @ Conall – You try tellin’ ol’ Cletus that he hates his good fer nuthin’, yeller-bellied rotten scoundel of a blood-feud neighbor less than his great, great gran-pappy did! I bet you’d see a whole can of enmity then!

  7. @ Liam
    True, maybe the hatred gets worse with time, as the enemies will have more chances for altercations.

    So do we need to add “heritary feud enemy”? If so, where?

  8. Once we hash out the priority among enemies, I would like to start putting together a list of friends….pals, mates, best friends, close friend, best friends for ever, etc…..

  9. I agree with Liam. A mortal enemy is someone you will hate to his or your death, and maybe someone you would actually cause the death of. I would flip mortal enemy and arch nemesis. Maybe “blood enemies” would cover the heriditary fued situation cause the hate is passed down through blood. Maybe afer sworn enemy?

  10. I would rank them as follows:

    Rival: I switched rival and opponent b/c I think rival implies that the parties’ goals are in tension with another – but not clearly in opposition.

    Opponent: implies more direct opposition than rival.

    Arch Rival: adding ‘arch’ to rival implies a diarchronic tension in the relationship and, perhaps, that this tension is of significant importance in the lives of the parties.

    Enemy: I think this one is correctly placed.

    Sworn Enemy: I switched sworn enemy with bitter enemy b.c, while ‘sworn enemy’ implies a commitment possibly lacking in ‘bitter enemy’, it need not imply the sort of extreme ill-will implied by ‘bitter enemy’.

    Bitter Enemy: See above.

    Arch Enemy: Same.

    Nemesis: n/c

    Arch Nemesis: Same.

    Mortal Enemy: I’ve moved this one, as I think mortal enemy implies an all-consuming quality, which both ‘arch enemy’ and ‘arch nemesis’ lack. (I too agree with Liam’s interpretation of mortal enemy – ie, an enemy who wants to kill you. This interpretation is consistent with the Oxford English Dictionary entry for mortal: ‘Of an enemy: that will be satisfied only with the death of the foe; implacable, unappeasable.’)

  11. @ Priyank – Thanks for visiting and for the comment. Welcome!

    And how could we miss ‘foe’?! Duh! I think your suggested placement, at the start of the list, is very apt indeed.

    @ Michelle – Very well-reasoned and articulate. I wouldn’t know where to begin to disagree with you, so I will just say ‘yes’. (That, and you agreed with me, so we’re obviously not enemies of any sort.)

  12. @ Noël – Well said, you! Anyone who agrees with me is clearly friend, not foe (nor opponent, nor nememis, nor …).

  13. @ Mark

    I have actually thought about trying to do that, and I found two things:

    (1) There are a lot of commonly used terms for friends
    (2) I had no really good way to rank them individually, though perhaps it could be best done in groups, as opposed to each on its own. I.e. friend and pal could be on the same level, but both would be below best friend and confidant.

    What do you think?

  14. So, would “frenemy” go on the adversarial relationship list or the friend list?

    My vote is for the former.

  15. @ Meg –

    So it that a ‘friend-enemy’? Someone who pretends to like us, but whom we really can’t stand? I’ve not heard that before … is that a ‘Daily Show’ word?

  16. @ Liam

    Yes, it’s a relationship where people are friendly to each other’s faces, pretend to be friends, etc. but, in fact, knowingly hate each other. I’m not sure where the word originated.

  17. @ Meg

    Is there an “opposite” for that word, like “enemend” which indicates that you act like enemies to each other, but know that you are actually friends?

  18. @ Meg

    That’s ok, we can just invent it. Chalk one up for the CMD invented words category!

    I am not sure I am happy with “enemend” as the combined word though. What do you think…”enemiend”?…”eneriend”?…actually, now that I evaluate the options, “enemend” is probably the best.

  19. Nemesis…the name implies a sisterly relationship. What then, do you suppose, would happen if we invented the term:


  20. Oh yes. This is just the kind of thing I can spend an hour on and not feel like I’ve wasted my time. I will add my thoughts about the differences between the terms that help organize them in my mind by enmity, and about their appearance in the list.

    A rival is greater in enmity than opponent because being rivals implies a mutually exclusive ultimate goal, whereas opponents do not. Teams on a field from different conferences are opponents, but not rivals.

    An archrival (note lack of space and dash) is a primary rival, the one whom you must defeat to attain that goal.

    An enemy is in opposition to your efforts even with a lack of shared goal. They show up to your game and heckle you even when they don’t play the game. Your enemy is the cheerleader you like’s hulk of a boyfriend, taunting you from the stands while you play your rival team.

    I don’t think a “bitter enemy” belongs on this list. It is just an enemy that is bitter? Could you also have a sour enemy or an ugly enemy? Probably. Maybe that puts them all ahead on the list? Maybe they’re all at the same level?

    A sworn enemy on the other hand is a little different. They’re not only out to get you, but they’ve proclaimed that this is their goal, and sworn to it in front of their people, God, or master.

    A nemesis is a weird thing, being an enemy who seeks revenge against you. Look up the etymology. They probably want to defeat you worse than you want to defeat them. This precludes there from being an “archnemesis” (“arch” is not an adjective!), since how can you have a primary source of revenge?

    The mortal enemy, as mentioned in other comments, will only succeed when you’re dead. Pretty heavy stuff.

    This leads to interesting questions, though. Can you have a mortal archenemy? Well, sure, if your archenemy wants you dead. But then your archenemy and your mortal archenemy are the same thing; you can’t have both.

    Interesting, interesting…

  21. @ Owen,

    Awesomely thorough insight!

    My favorite line: “This is just the kind of thing I can spend an hour on and not feel like I’ve wasted my time.”

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