A word having a meaning opposite to that of another word. (See "Three Types of Antonyms," below.)
Antonym is the antonym of synonym. Antonymy is the sense relation that exists between words which are opposite in meaning. Adjective: antonymous.
Antonymy is found most commonly (though not exclusively) among adjectives.
- Name That -nym: A Brief Introduction to Words and Names
- Name That -nym: A Matching Quiz
- Vocabulary Builder #1: Antonyms
Etymology:Introduced by C.J. Smith in the book Synonyms and Antonyms (1867). 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."
- 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 - uglyThese 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."
expensive - cheap
fast - slow
hot - cold
increase - decrease
long - short
love - hate
rich - poor
sweet - sour
(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)
- Antonymy in Everyday Life
"Antonymy is a key feature of everyday life. Should further evidence be required, try visiting a public lavatory without checking which is the 'gents' and which is the 'ladies.' On your way out, ignore the instructions which tell you whether to 'push' or 'pull' the door. And once outside, pay no attention to whether traffic lights are telling you to 'stop' or 'go.' At best, you will end up looking very foolish; at worst, you will end up dead.
"Antonymy holds a place in society which other sense relations simply do not occupy. Whether or not there exists a 'general human tendency to categorize experience in terms of dichotomous contrast' (Lyons 1977: 277) is not easily gauged, but, either way, our exposure to antonymy is immeasurable: we memorise 'opposites' in childhood, encounter them throughout our daily lives, and possibly even use antonymy as a cognitive device to organise human experience."
(Steven Jones, Antonymy: A Corpus-Based Perspective. Routledge, 2002)
- "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.”