What Are Antonyms? (with Examples)
AntonymsAntonyms are words with opposite meanings.
Easy Examples of Antonyms
- Bad is an antonym ofgood.
- Coward is an antonym of hero.
More Examples of AntonymsA word can have more than one antonym. The following are all antonyms of good:
- bad, corrupt, evil, evilness, malicious, sour, wicked
There are two main types of antonyms: graded antonyms and complementary antonyms.
Graded AntonymsGraded antonyms do not have to be opposites of equal weighting. They allow for shades of oppositeness. For example, the following are all antonyms for good:
- unsatisfactory, poor, bad, terrible
- obese, chubby, plump, fat, overweight, stout, burly, brawny, well-built, averagely built (Notice the scale from "very not thin" to "a little bit not thin".)
Complementary AntonymsComplementary antonyms offer no middle ground. The antonyms are strongly paired, meaning there is only one antonym for each word. (Complementary antonyms are often called relational antonyms because a clear relationship exists between the words.) For example:
- 1 / 0
- before / after
- buy / sell
- dead / alive
- doctor / patient
- husband / wife
- man / woman
- off / on
- predator / prey
- yes / no
Adding a Prefix to Form an AntonymQuite often, an antonym can be made by adding a prefix. For example:
- likely / unlikely
- able / unable
- entity / nonentity
- combatant / noncombatant
- typical / atypical
- symmetrical / asymmetrical
- decent / indecent
- discreet / indiscreet
Why Should I Care about Antonyms?There are three reasons to care about antonyms:
(Reason 1) To keep your writing interestingTo avoid using the same words or the same sentence structures, add some variety by expressing your idea from the other direction with an antonym. Compare these:
- His strong bicep bulged in the sleeve.
- His far-from-feeble bicep bulged in the sleeve. (This is a little more interesting and a little more rhythmic too.)
(Reason 2) To sound more factualYou can use an antonym to form a deliberate double negative. A double negative (e.g., I ain't got no money) is not always a mistake. Quite often, using a double negative sounds more diplomatic or factual. Compare these:
- She is beautiful.
- She could not be described as unattractive. (This sounds far more factual than complimentary.)
(Reason 3) To improve vocabularyLearning antonyms is an effective way to expand your vocabulary because the original word provides a "mental hook" to hang the antonyms on. Looking at a difficult word's antonyms (as well as its synonyms, i.e., other meanings) is a good way to confirm its meaning.
- axiomatic (synonym: obvious; antonym: questionable)
- erudite (synonym: scholarly; antonym: uneducated)