antagonist

noun
an·​tag·​o·​nist | \ an-ˈta-gə-nist How to pronounce antagonist (audio) \

Definition of antagonist

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for antagonist

Synonyms

adversary, enemy, foe, hostile, opponent

Antonyms

amigo, friend

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Speaking of the icy antagonist, Williams also shared a behind-the-scenes photo of stuntman and actor Vladimir Furdik, who plays the Night King on the show, in the second slide of her Insta post with Turner. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Game of Thrones's Maisie Williams Responds to Arya's Epic Kill with a Priceless Sophie Turner Video," 29 Apr. 2019 That seems to indicate that the antagonist will make a fiery return to the second season. Jennifer Lance, Glamour, "Killing Eve Season 2: Here's Everything We Know So Far," 3 Jan. 2019 Some of them are victims and some of them are antagonists, but none of them are as important as Jennifer and Needy — either to each other or to the audience. Constance Grady, Vox, "How Jennifer’s Body went from a flop in 2009 to a feminist cult classic today," 31 Oct. 2018 Sufferers of frequent, recurring heartburn (several times a week) should consider that Zegerid OTC is in the proton pump inhibitor (PPI) class; Pepsid and Zantac, on the other hand, are H2 antagonists. Barbara Brody, Woman's Day, "Stop the Burn," 2 Apr. 2010 In sight isn’t just Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, but also Cuba, an antagonist that has dominated American attention in the region for more than 50 years, as well as recent inroads made by Russia, China and Iran. Ian Talley, WSJ, "U.S. Push to Oust Venezuela’s Maduro Marks First Shot in Plan to Reshape Latin America," 30 Jan. 2019 The statement was the turning point in public perception, portraying Sandmann not as an antagonist but as a young person hoping to diffuse a tense situation with adults. Kate Storey, Town & Country, "Behind the PR Machine That Helped Change the Nick Sandmann Narrative," 25 Jan. 2019 As an adenosine antagonist, caffeine is an opposing force that helps wake you up by binding to your adenosine receptors. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "How to Tell if Your 'Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches' Are Actually Migraines," 25 Jan. 2019 Hawley campaigned as an antagonist to big technology companies in general and Google in particular. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Newly elected Republican senator could be Google’s fiercest critic," 24 Nov. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of antagonist

1555, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for antagonist

see antagonize

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about antagonist

Statistics for antagonist

Last Updated

24 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for antagonist

The first known use of antagonist was in 1555

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for antagonist

antagonist

noun

English Language Learners Definition of antagonist

: a person who opposes another person

antagonist

noun
an·​tag·​o·​nist | \ an-ˈta-gə-nəst How to pronounce antagonist (audio) \

Kids Definition of antagonist

: a person who is against something or someone else : opponent

antagonist

noun
an·​tag·​o·​nist | \ -nəst How to pronounce antagonist (audio) \

Medical Definition of antagonist

: 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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on antagonist

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

WORD OF THE DAY

a strong desire or propensity

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!