an·​tag·​o·​nism | \ an-ˈta-gə-ˌni-zəm How to pronounce antagonism (audio) \

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 In fact, the hallmark of Oyler’s criticism is not any innate antagonism, but rather an interest in engaging with an object on its own terms, stripped bare of all the Best Book and Worst Book hyperbole that has flattened literary discourse. Kristin Iversen,, "Lauren Oyler Doesn’t Think You’re Dumb," 2 Feb. 2021 But there was clearly something deeper and more fundamental about their antagonism. New York Times, "Narinder S. Kapany, ‘Father of Fiber Optics,’ Dies at 94," 7 Jan. 2021 When the world is providing all the antagonism people can bear, TV that demands little is TV that offers a lot. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "How America Got Comfortable With Comfort TV," 27 Dec. 2020 By heroizing Mankiewicz’s drunken, egomaniacal antagonism toward the studio bosses who opposed Upton Sinclair, Fincher angles his film to flatter Hollywood’s arrogant political sensibilities. Armond White, National Review, "The Facile Fascism of David Fincher," 11 Dec. 2020 Prestige implies a certain antagonism between a show’s creators and its viewers: a challenge, a provocation, a Red Wedding–style shock to entertainment’s typical transactions. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "How America Got Comfortable With Comfort TV," 27 Dec. 2020 His body, too, is endangered, this young Black body around which coheres such antagonism and violence. New York Times, "What the Church Meant for James Baldwin," 4 Dec. 2020 This perpetual mood of anxiety and antagonism, of verbal and physical aggression, of ever-increasing attempts to destroy the most important element of this country’s name and identity — united — cannot become normal. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Stop pretending anything about this election is normal," 3 Nov. 2020 As his administration draws to a close, some of those backers are approaching President-elect Joe Biden with skepticism, but not antagonism. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Religious right eyes Biden warily after Trump’s good favor," 5 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for antagonism

Time Traveler

The first known use of antagonism was in 1716

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Statistics for antagonism

Last Updated

16 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Antagonism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce antagonism (audio) \

Kids Definition of antagonism

: a strong feeling of dislike or disagreement


an·​tag·​o·​nism | \ an-ˈtag-ə-ˌniz-əm How to pronounce antagonism (audio) \

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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