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a. The act or an instance of reversing.
b. The state of being reversed.
2. A usually adverse change in fortune: financial reversals.
3. Law The act or an instance of changing or setting aside a lower court's decision by a higher court.
4. Sports A maneuver in wrestling in which a competitor being controlled by the opponent suddenly reverses the situation and gains control.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. the act or an instance of reversing
2. a change for the worse; reverse: a reversal of fortune.
3. the state of being reversed
4. (Law) the annulment of a judicial decision, esp by an appeal court on grounds of error or irregularity
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(rɪˈvɜr səl)

1. an act or instance of reversing.
2. the state of being reversed.
3. an adverse change of fortune; reverse.
4. the setting aside of a decision of a lower court by a higher court.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.



catch a tartar To experience a reversal of expectations, particularly in dealing with another person; to find intractable one anticipated to be docile; to meet one’s match, often specifically to marry a shrew.

What a Tartar have I caught!
(John Dry den, Kind Keeper, 1678)

By extension the phrase may mean to have a bargain backfire, an advantage prove a liability, a gift becomes a curse, and similar reversals.

Frankenstein monster An invention or other creation that eventually works against or kills its creator; something that backfires or boomerangs. The expression comes from Mary Shelley’s famous work Frankenstein (1818), in which the notorious monster turned against and destroyed its maker, Dr. Frankenstein. The phrase is used figuratively to describe a project or undertaking begun with good intentions, but which ultimately develops into an uncontrollable agent of destruction or evil.

Is Great Britain creating for herself something of a Frankenstein monster on the Nile? (Saturday Review, April, 1907)

hoist with one’s own petard To be defeated by a plan that backfires; to be caught in one’s own trap. In this expression, petard refers to an ancient, short-fuzed time bomb or grenade. Obviously, a soldier who placed the charge was endangered not only by enemy fire, but also by the exploding petard if he did not get away soon enough or if the fuze were faulty. So many soldiers were killed by exploding petards that the expression came into widespread literal, and later, figurative, use.

Let it work;
For tis sport, to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard; and it
shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below
their mines,
And blow them at the moon.
(Shakespeare, Hamlet, III, iv)

my Venus turns out a whelp An expression formerly used on experiencing a reversal of expectations, a failure instead of the anticipated success. The expression comes from dice: the highest roll, three sixes, was called a Venus; the lowest, three aces, a canis (dog). The aptness was reinforced by the association of Venus with beauty and divinity, and of whelp with cur and mongrel.

the shoe is on the other foot The situation is reversed. This expression, with its obvious allusion, is most often used in reference to a certain poetic justice that results from the exchange or reversal of disparate roles: the controller becomes the controlled, the oppressor becomes the oppressed, the critic becomes the criticized, and so on.

Recently, much to British chagrin, the shoe was on the other foot. (The Nation, March 17, 1945)

the tables are turned The situation is completely reversed, roles have been switched, positions interchanged; the exact opposite is now the case. The tables in this expression refers to the playing boards which, in certain games, are fully turned round, so that the relative positions of the adversaries are reversed. The phrase often implies that one now enjoys (or suffers) the perspective formerly held by an opponent. The following citation shows both figurative application and literal derivation:

Whosoever thou art that dost another wrong, do but turn the tables: imagine thy neighbour were now playing thy game, and thou his. (Bishop Robert Sanderson, Sermons, 1634)

It also illustrates the active use of the phrase, somewhat less common today, turn tables or turn the tables on.

turn the tide To reverse the current trend of events, especially from one extreme to the other; to turn the tables. Tide (literally the ebb and flow of the ocean waters) is used here figuratively to represent the course or direction in which any matter or concern is moving.

ugly duckling A homely or unpromising child who blossoms into a beautiful or accomplished adult; anything appearing to lack redeeming qualities that subsequently proves worthy of respect and notice. This expression comes from Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling, in which the title character, after struggling through a year of ridicule and hardship, develops into a glorious white swan. While the expression retains its human applications, it is also used for an inanimate object that is initially thought to be worthless but later proves to be a windfall. This figurative use of the phrase was illustrated by W. O. Douglas, as cited in Webster’s Third:

From the beginning Alaska was treated pretty much as our ugly duckling.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.reversal - a change from one state to the opposite statereversal - a change from one state to the opposite state; "there was a reversal of autonomic function"
change of state - the act of changing something into something different in essential characteristics
regress, retrogression, retroversion, regression, reversion - returning to a former state
2.reversal - an unfortunate happening that hinders or impedesreversal - an unfortunate happening that hinders or impedes; something that is thwarting or frustrating
happening, natural event, occurrence, occurrent - an event that happens
whammy - a serious or devastating setback
3.reversal - turning in an opposite direction or positionreversal - turning in an opposite direction or position; "the reversal of the image in the lens"
turning, turn - a movement in a new direction; "the turning of the wind"
4.reversal - a decision to reverse an earlier decision
deciding, decision making - the cognitive process of reaching a decision; "a good executive must be good at decision making"
afterthought, rethink, second thought, reconsideration - thinking again about a choice previously made; "he had second thoughts about his purchase"
5.reversal - a judgment by a higher court that the judgment of a lower court was incorrect and should be set aside
judicial decision, judgment, judgement - (law) the determination by a court of competent jurisdiction on matters submitted to it
law, jurisprudence - the collection of rules imposed by authority; "civilization presupposes respect for the law"; "the great problem for jurisprudence to allow freedom while enforcing order"
affirmation - a judgment by a higher court that the judgment of a lower court was correct and should stand
6.reversal - turning in the opposite directionreversal - turning in the opposite direction  
change of direction, reorientation - the act of changing the direction in which something is oriented
about turn, about-face - act of pivoting 180 degrees, especially in a military formation
u-turn - complete reversal of direction of travel
7.reversal - the act of reversing the order or place of
reordering - a rearrangement in a different order
8.reversal - a major change in attitude or principle or point of viewreversal - a major change in attitude or principle or point of view; "an about-face on foreign policy"
change - the action of changing something; "the change of government had no impact on the economy"; "his change on abortion cost him the election"
undoing - an act that makes a previous act of no effect (as if not done)
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


1. turnaround, U-turn, backtracking, turnabout, shift, swing, change of heart, turnround, volte-face the reversal of a steady downward trend
3. swap, change, trading, exchange, swapping, transposition a strange role reversal
4. failure, failing, loss, defeat, frustration, breakdown, downfall, lack of success They teach managers to accept reversal.
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


1. The act of changing or being changed from one position, direction, or course to the opposite:
2. A change from better to worse:
3. The act of reversing or annulling:
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
عَكْس، قَلْب، إنْقِلاب
tersine çevirme


[rɪˈvɜːsəl] N
1. (= change) [of order, roles] → inversión f; [of policy] → cambio m de rumbo; [of decision etc] → revocación f
2. (= setback) → revés m, contratiempo m
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[rɪˈvɜːrsəl] n
(= change) [opinion] → revirement m; [policy, trend, position] → revirement m
a reversal of fortune → un revers de fortune
(= setback) → revers m
(= exchange) → inversion
a reversal of roles → une inversion des rôles role reversal
(LAW) [judgement, decision] → renversement m
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(= turning the other way round, of order, situation, procedure) → Umkehren nt; (of objects, sentences, words)Umstellen nt, → Vertauschung f; (of garment)Wenden nt; (of result)Umkehren nt, → Umdrehen nt
(of verdict, judgement)Umstoßung f; (of decree)Aufhebung f; (of trend, process)Umkehrung f; (of policy)Umkrempeln nt; (of decision, surgical operation)Rückgängigmachen nt
(= setback)Rückschlag m; to suffer a reversaleinen Rückschlag erleiden
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[rɪˈvɜːsl] n (of roles, tendencies) → inversione f; (of situation, fortunes) → capovolgimento; (of decision) → revoca
the reversal of industrial decline → il risollevamento delle sorti dell'industria
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(rəˈvəːs) verb
1. to move backwards or in the opposite direction to normal. He reversed (the car) into the garage; He reversed the film through the projector.
2. to put into the opposite position, state, order etc. This jacket can be reversed (= worn inside out).
3. to change (a decision, policy etc) to the exact opposite. The man was found guilty, but the judges in the appeal court reversed the decision.
1. (also adjective) (the) opposite. `Are you hungry?' `Quite the reverse – I've eaten far too much!'; I take the reverse point of view.
2. a defeat; a piece of bad luck.
3. (a mechanism eg one of the gears of a car etc which makes something move in) a backwards direction or a direction opposite to normal. He put the car into reverse; (also adjective) a reverse gear.
4. (also adjective) (of) the back of a coin, medal etc. the reverse (side) of a coin.
reˈversal noun
a reversal of his previous decision.
reˈversed adjective
in the opposite state, position, order etc. Once he worked for me. Now our positions are reversed and I work for him.
reˈversible adjective
1. able to be reversed.
2. (of clothes) able to be worn with either side out. Is that raincoat reversible?
reverse the charges to make a telephone call (a reverse-charge call)
which is paid for by the person who receives it instead of by the caller.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.


n. reversión, restitución a un estado anterior.
English-Spanish Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


n reversión f; vasectomy — reversión de vasectomía
English-Spanish/Spanish-English Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Besides which, the most powerful elements of emotional: interest in Tragedy Peripeteia or Reversal of the Situation, and Recognition scenes--are parts of the plot.
The manager pleaded for a reversal of the command; said it would ruin the costly scenery and the splendid costumes, but the King cried:
"You may ask what you like," I cried, with a final reversal of all my first impressions of this impertinent old fellow; "but I'm hanged if I tell it you!
"You must excuse me," he said, "but a sense of humor was always my undoing, and this reversal of our positions is a little odd, isn't it?
It was a strange reversal of attitudes: Fred's blond face and blue eyes, usually bright and careless, ready to give attention to anything that held out a promise of amusement, looking involuntarily grave and almost embarrassed as if by the sight of something unfitting; while Lydgate, who had habitually an air of self-possessed strength, and a certain meditativeness that seemed to lie behind his most observant attention, was acting, watching, speaking with that excited narrow consciousness which reminds one of an animal with fierce eyes and retractile claws.
This is the way in which Our John has come to find no pleasure but in taking cold among the linen, and in showing in that yard, as in that yard I have myself shown you, a broken-down ruin that goes home to his mother's heart!' Here the good woman pointed to the little window, whence her son might be seen sitting disconsolate in the tuneless groves; and again shook her head and wiped her eyes, and besought him, for the united sakes of both the young people, to exercise his influence towards the bright reversal of these dismal events.
Why, the gayest feather in Miss Monflathers's cap, and the brightest glory of Miss Monflathers's school, was a baronet's daughter--the real live daughter of a real live baronet--who, by some extraordinary reversal of the Laws of Nature, was not only plain in features but dull in intellect, while the poor apprentice had both a ready wit, and a handsome face and figure.
Now what a radical reversal of things this was; what a jumbling together of extravagant incongruities; what a fantastic conjunction of opposites and irreconcilables -- the home of the bogus miracle become the home of a real one, the den of a mediaeval hermit turned into a telephone office!
Wert thou to fly, what would ensue but the reversal of thy arms, the dishonour of thine ancestry, the degradation of thy rank?
That is called the 'Reversal Peg.' If you push it in, the events of the next hour happen in the reverse order.
The young man, as he followed his wife into the hall, was conscious of a curious reversal of mood.
To see land and water curving upward in the distance until it seemed to stand on edge where it melted into the distant sky, and to feel that seas and mountains hung suspended directly above one's head required such a complete reversal of the perceptive and reasoning faculties as almost to stupefy one.