an·​tag·​o·​nism | \an-ˈta-gə-ˌni-zəm \

Definition of antagonism 

1a : opposition of a conflicting force, tendency, or principle the antagonism of democracy to dictatorship

b : actively expressed opposition or hostility antagonism between factions personal antagonism

2 : opposition in physiological action especially : interaction of two or more substances such that the action of any one of them on living cells or tissues is lessened

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Choose the Right Synonym for antagonism

enmity, hostility, antipathy, antagonism, animosity, rancor, animus mean deep-seated dislike or ill will. enmity suggests positive hatred which may be open or concealed. an unspoken enmity hostility suggests an enmity showing itself in attacks or aggression. hostility between the two nations antipathy and antagonism imply a natural or logical basis for one's hatred or dislike, antipathy suggesting repugnance, a desire to avoid or reject, and antagonism suggesting a clash of temperaments leading readily to hostility. a natural antipathy for self-seekers antagonism between the brothers animosity suggests intense ill will and vindictiveness that threaten to kindle hostility. animosity that led to revenge rancor is especially applied to bitter brooding over a wrong. rancor filled every line of his letters animus adds to animosity the implication of strong prejudice. objections devoid of personal animus

Examples of antagonism in a Sentence

The region has a long history of ethnic antagonisms. the antagonism between them was so bad they couldn't even sit near each other

Recent Examples on the Web

But his long history of antagonism with the media inevitably shadowed his response to the tragedy. Mark Landler, New York Times, "Condemning Deadly Newsroom Shooting, Trump Tempers Hostility Toward Media," 29 June 2018 Even antagonism toward the Soviet Union served to reinforce black people’s status as second-class citizens within the states. Mychal Denzel Smith, The New Republic, "How America became over-policed," 5 June 2018 The developments in Italy have rattled financial markets and resulted in a new government in which two parties with a history of antagonism toward the European Union are set to take power. Raphael Minder,, "Spain’s Rajoy ousted in no-confidence vote," 1 June 2018 For a long time, it was generally supposed that sports rivalries harmlessly sublimated national antagonisms. Larry Wolff, WSJ, "Croatia Offers Redemption for Eastern Europe," 13 July 2018 Which is why anything that heightens international antagonism — even an intemperate tweet — sends shivers through the market, while the barest hints of melioration warm portfolios everywhere, if only for a few hours. Evan Horowitz,, "Wall Street hates Trump’s trade threats as much as it loves his tax cut," 27 June 2018 The horrors of the Battle of Stalingrad are clear, but there's no antagonism towards the Germans. Pan Pylas,, "Volgograd, the city once called Stalingrad, provides the proper perspective at World Cup," 20 June 2018 Guenevere at first tries to hide her attraction to the French knight Lancelot (Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton) beneath a jaunty antagonism. Julia M. Klein,, "Act II Playhouse's 'Camelot' a scaled-down yet powerful portrayal," 27 May 2018 Though he's kept his major-league deals, some say his penchant for antagonism has brought about a fan backlash reminiscent of when the Dixie Chicks took on President George W. Bush ahead of the Iraq war in 2003., "Today: The Homecoming," 10 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'antagonism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of antagonism

1716, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for antagonism

see antagonize

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Last Updated

7 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for antagonism

The first known use of antagonism was in 1716

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More Definitions for antagonism



English Language Learners Definition of antagonism

: a strong feeling of dislike or hatred : a desire to oppose something you dislike or disagree with


an·​tag·​o·​nism | \an-ˈta-gə-ˌni-zəm \

Kids Definition of antagonism

: a strong feeling of dislike or disagreement


an·​tag·​o·​nism | \an-ˈtag-ə-ˌniz-əm \

Medical Definition of antagonism 

: opposition in physiological action:

a : opposing action in the effect of contraction of muscles (as the extensors and flexors of a part)

b : interaction of two or more substances such that the action of any one of them on living cells or tissues is lessened (as by interference with the uptake or by an opposing physiological reaction) — compare synergism

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Comments on antagonism

What made you want to look up antagonism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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