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Centrifugal vs. centripetal

Centrifugal describes things that (1) move or are directed away from a center, (2) operate by means of centrifugal force, or (3) tend away from centralization. Centripetal‘s meanings are opposite; centripetal things (1) move or are directed toward a center, (2) operate by means of centripetal force, or (3) tend toward centralization. Like many antonym pairs that are fairly rare and similar in sound, centrifugal and centripetal are easy to confuse.

Examples

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India represents “diversity in unity,” a centrifugal state reined in by only the very loosest and most fragile of bonds. [Globe and Mail]

She directs everybody, making it clear she is the centripetal force in this galaxy. [Calcutta Telegraph]

In an age when shared information is the bedrock of shared experience, the filter bubble is a centrifugal force, pulling us apart. [CNN]

Everything in the film seems to have a centripetal force that holds it together. [Indy.com]

When negotiating a turn, centrifugal force increases the load to between 5 and 10 times body weight. [New York Times]

Keeping an object moving in an orbit requires a centripetal force, directed Earthward. [BBC News]

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