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.

Example Sentences

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 About half of Wakanda Forever's scenes take place underwater, thanks to the addition of new antagonist Namor (Tenoch Huerta), who rules the secretive deep-sea land of Talokan. Shafiq Najib, Peoplemag, 20 Nov. 2022 Known as Chris Harvard in his pro wrestling days, which included a stint in the W.W.E., Nowinski knows the draw of a good antagonist. Ken Belson, New York Times, 26 Oct. 2022 Sanjay Dutt plays the role of the antagonist while Raveena Tandon essays the role of the Prime Minister. Sweta Kaushal, Forbes, 16 May 2022 Ghost is more of an antagonist than a villain in a traditional sense, but still is the source of the main conflict in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 5 May 2022 Tenoch Huerta’s Namor comes with an origin tale full of his own tragedy and hero’s journey, on his way to becoming the antagonist of Wakanda Forever but not necessarily an outright villain. Mark Hughes, Forbes, 11 Nov. 2022 One of them is Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the Black Panther 2‘s main antagonist. Chris Smith, BGR, 7 Nov. 2022 These glittery pink nails feature the hot pink-haired antagonist of Hunter x Hunter, Hisoka, to a T. Gabi Thorne, Allure, 19 Oct. 2022 Jason became the main antagonist beginning with the second film. Joe Otterson, Variety, 31 Oct. 2022 See More

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.

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. 2022.

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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