antagonist

noun

an·​tag·​o·​nist an-ˈta-gə-nist How to pronounce antagonist (audio)
1
: one that contends with or opposes another : adversary, opponent
political antagonists
2
: an agent of physiological antagonism: such as
a
: a muscle that contracts with and limits the action of an agonist with which it is paired

called also antagonistic muscle

b
: a chemical that acts within the body to reduce the physiological activity of another chemical substance (such as an opiate)
especially : one that opposes the action on the nervous system of a drug or a substance occurring naturally in the body by combining with and blocking its nervous receptor compare agonist sense 2b

Did you know?

On the stage or screen, in a story or a novel, the protagonist is the main character and the antagonist is the opposing one. Pro- and ant- usually mark the good and bad characters, but not always; there may occasionally be an evil protagonist and a good antagonist. In the drama of the real world, it's especially hard to sort out which is which, so we usually speak of both parties to a conflict as antagonists. During a strike, for example, representatives of labor and management become antagonists; they often manage to antagonize each other, and the antagonism often remains after the strike is over.

Examples of antagonist in a Sentence

They are interested in character first, and in Don, a foul-mouthed psychopath with a hair-trigger temper and buried longings for Gal's wife, they have created a truly scary antagonist. David Ansen, Newsweek, 18 June 2001
In the 1970s researchers discovered that the actions of estrogen and other hormones can be blocked chemically by drugs called hormone antagonists David Plotkin, Atlantic, June 1996
If the new comptroller is a true antagonist of the seamy bond market practices he decried in the campaign, why has he installed as his first deputy the public finance director from the Dinkins administration who was Holtzman's accomplice in each of those deals. Wayne Barrett, Village Voice, March 1994
As in that film, Kopple not only draws an intimate portrait of the protagonists and antagonists in the strike, but also deftly locates the workers' struggle within a broad context of economic and political forces. Frank Thompson, Film Comment, January/February 1991
please name the novel's hero and his antagonist his antagonist in the boxing match See More
Recent Examples on the Web Brian Cox portrayed an antagonist named Ward Abbott in the series' first two films, while Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel and Riz Ahmed each played supporting roles in the most recent entry. Tommy McArdle, Peoplemag, 21 Nov. 2023 The 45th president himself even makes a cameo via the television set of main antagonist Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm). Alison Herman, Variety, 21 Nov. 2023 So does Biden, who is now trying to manage two wars indirectly, one of which has required linking his reputation to his old antagonist Benjamin Netanyahu. Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker, 12 Nov. 2023 In the new book, Rick is hired by a former antagonist to track down a missing woman. Seth Combs, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Nov. 2023 And long before McCarthy’s pale eminence seized the gavel, an older version of his antagonists was doing then-Speaker John Boehner dirty. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 4 Nov. 2023 Thirty-six states allow K-12 schools to administer opioid antagonists, the class of medications that includes naloxone, according to a recent analysis. Aria Bendix, NBC News, 1 Nov. 2023 But just nine states expressly require schools to have opioid antagonists, and some of those requirements only apply to public schools or certain grades. Aria Bendix, NBC News, 1 Nov. 2023 Even Bob Dylan, a notorious media antagonist for most of his career, promoted his memoir in 2004. Julia Jacobs, New York Times, 26 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'antagonist.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

see antagonize

First Known Use

1555, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of antagonist was in 1555

Dictionary Entries Near antagonist

Cite this Entry

“Antagonist.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/antagonist. Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

antagonist

noun
an·​tag·​o·​nist an-ˈtag-ə-nəst How to pronounce antagonist (audio)
: one that opposes another

Medical Definition

antagonist

noun
an·​tag·​o·​nist -nəst How to pronounce antagonist (audio)
: an agent that acts in physiological opposition
contact between a tooth and its antagonist in the opposing jaw
: as
a
: a muscle that contracts with and limits the action of an agonist with which it is paired

called also antagonistic muscle

compare agonist sense 1, synergist sense 2
b
: a chemical that acts within the body to reduce the physiological activity of another chemical substance (as an opiate)
especially : one that opposes the action on the nervous system of a drug or a substance occurring naturally in the body by combining with and blocking its nervous receptor compare agonist sense 2

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