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A word having a meaning opposite to that of another word. (See "Three Types of Antonyms," below.) Antonym is the antonym of synonym. Adjective: antonymous.

Antonymy is the sense relation that exists between words which are opposite in meaning. Antonymy is found most commonly (though not exclusively) among adjectives.

See also:

From the Greek, "counter name"

Examples and Observations:

  • "You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget."
    (Cormac McCarthy, The Road. Knopf, 2006)

  • "You always pass failure on the way to success."
    (attributed to Mickey Rooney)

  • "Some have been thought to be brave
    because they were afraid to run away."
    (attributed to Thomas Fuller)

  • "This above all: to thine own self be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.
    Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!"
    (Polonius in Act One, scene 3 of Hamlet by William Shakespeare)

  • "Winning may not be everything, but losing has little to recommend it.”
    (Dianne Feinstein in Nine and Counting: The Women of the Senate, by Barbara Boxer et al. William Morrow, 2000)

  • "Every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving."
    (Albert Einstein, The World As I See It, 1931)

  • "If speaking is silver, then listening is gold."
    (Turkish proverb)

  • Three Types of Antonyms
    "Linguists identify three types of antonymy: (1) Gradable antonyms, which operate on a continuum: (very) big, (very) small. Such pairs often occur in binomial phrases with and: (blow) hot and cold, (search) high and low. (2) Complementary antonyms, which express an either/or relationship: dead or alive, male or female. (3) Converse or relational antonyms, expressing reciprocity: borrow or lend, buy or sell, wife or husband."
    (Tom McArthur, "Antonym." The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford Univ. Press, 1992)

    (1) Gradable Antonyms
    "Gradable antonyms include pairs like the following:
    beautiful - ugly
    expensive - cheap
    fast - slow
    hot - cold
    increase - decrease
    long - short
    love - hate
    rich - poor
    sweet - sour
    wide- narrow
    These pairs are called gradable antonyms because they do not represent an either-or relation but rather a more-less relation. The words can be viewed as terms at the end-points of a continuum or gradient. The more/less relation is evident in a number of ways: the terms allow comparison, e.g. 'My arm is longer/shorter than yours,' 'I love a good book more than a good meal'; the adjectives can be modified by 'intensifying' adverbs, e.g. very long, extremely hot, extraordinarily beautiful."
    (Howard Jackson and Etienne Zé Amvela, Words, Meaning and Vocabulary: An Introduction to Modern English Lexicology. Continuum, 2000)

    (2) Complementary Antonyms
    "Complementary antonyms are another subtype of antonymy: if you are one, you cannot be the other; these are 'absolute' opposites. That is, if you are dead, you cannot also be alive; if you are asleep, you are not awake, and so on. Similar pairs of this sort include legal/illegal and beginning/end."
    (Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck, Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction, 2nd ed. Wadsworth, 2013)

    (3) Converse or Relational Antonyms
    "The pairs above:below, before:after, precede:follow, buy:sell, and lend:borrow exemplify this category. Converses are sometimes called relational opposites. They all express relationships between two (or more) people or things. . . . Take, for instance, buy and sell: Brian sold the car to Michael and Michael bought the car from Brian both indicate that a particular transaction has taken place. But the first sentence highlights Brian's role in the proceedings, while the second focuses on Michael."
    (N. E. Collinge, An Encyclopaedia of Language. Routledge, 1990)

  • "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”
    (Elie Wiesel, quoted in US News and World Report, October 27, 1986)
Pronunciation: AN-ti-nim
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