I’m a functional vegetarian, and I was wondering recently if there’s a word that means the opposite of vegetarian. I decided to go on a bit of an exploration, and here’s what I found.

Carnivore

Probably the most obvious choice for the opposite of vegetarian is carnivore. It has a couple of issues though.

First, carnivore doesn’t describe a life choice like vegetarian does. A carnivore is someone (or something) who meats, but does so virtually exclusively and out of biological design, not out of choice. Predators are often carnivorous.

The second issue is that carnivore is the opposite of another word already: herbivore. I suppose that carnivore could be the opposite of vegetarian, but then we vegetarians would probably have to start calling ourselves herbivores.

Finally, anyone who claims to be carnivorous likely isn’t. They’re likely omnivorous, eating a combination of meat-based and plant-based foods. It’s probably extremely rare that someone exclusively eats just meat.

Omnivore

Omnivore isn’t really the opposite of vegetarian; it includes plant-based foods. The opposite of vegetarian would exclude them. Omnivore is also a biological term. Humans are biologically omnivorous, which means vegetarians are biologically omnivorous but choose to abstain from eating meat.

Meatatarian

This word was made up relatively recently. It has nearly 70,000 results on Google, and probably more on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Unlike carnivore, meatatarian doesn’t describe a biological diet; it describes a lifestyle choice.

Carnetarian

Carnetarian is also a recent invention, but less popular than meatatarian, with only 1,300 search results.

Meat eater

Seems reasonable. Except for one flaw: one can eat meat but not be the opposite of vegetarian. The opposite of vegetarian would be someone who doesn’t eat plant-based food. Someone can eat both plant-based foods and meat and still be a meat eater.

So, there you have it. Three of the options aren”t technically opposites, and the other two are recent inventions. If I was a betting man, I’d probably put my money down on meatatarian.

About Kim Siever

I am a copywriter and copyeditor. I blog on writing tips mostly, but I sometimes throw in my thoughts about running a small business. Follow me on Twitter at @hotpepper.

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