an·​tith·​e·​sis | \ an-ˈti-thə-səs How to pronounce antithesis (audio) \
plural antitheses\ an-​ˈti-​thə-​ˌsēz How to pronounce antitheses (audio) \

Definition of antithesis

1a : the direct opposite Her temperament is the very antithesis of mine.
b(1) : the rhetorical contrast of ideas by means of parallel arrangements of words, clauses, or sentences (as in "action, not words" or "they promised freedom and provided slavery")
(2) : opposition, contrast the antithesis of prose and verse
c : the second of two opposing words, clauses, or sentences that are being rhetorically contrasted
2 philosophy : the second stage of a dialectical process

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Did You Know?

Writers and speechmakers use the traditional pattern known as antithesis for its resounding effect; John Kennedy's famous "ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country" is an example. But antithesis normally means simply "opposite". Thus, war is the antithesis of peace, wealth is the antithesis of poverty, and love is the antithesis of hate. Holding two antithetical ideas in one's head at the same time—for example, that you're the sole master of your fate but also the helpless victim of your terrible upbringing—is so common as to be almost normal.

Examples of antithesis in a Sentence

In urban areas, middle schools often became the antithesis of what reformers had intended. Instead of warm incubators of independence and judgment, they became impersonal, oppressive institutions. — Claudia Wallis, Time, 8 Aug. 2005 Yet the newest residential rage in Dallas is the antithesis of the traditional neighborhood: the gated community. Depending on your income and level of anxiety, these private enclaves may contain golf courses, health clubs and equestrian centers … — Paul McFedries, Word Spy, 2004 Cato, who dosed his family on cabbage soup, derided Greek physicians as the antithesis of Roman virtue: they were frauds who cheated patients and 'have sworn to kill all barbarians with their drugs'. — Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind, 1997 true love for another is the antithesis of the desire to control that person's life
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Recent Examples on the Web

In many ways, MAD is the antithesis of Rothko Chapel. Amber Elliott, Houston Chronicle, "Lynn Wyatt and the Rothko Chapel takeover MAD restaurant in River Oaks District for VIP dinner," 30 Aug. 2019 Trump represents the antithesis of the country’s most decent aspirations. Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, "Democratic Debate 2019: Kamala Harris Exposed the Biden Weaknesses That Trump Will Exploit," 28 June 2019 With its stripped down, no-frills look, 4chan was the antithesis of a Twitter or Facebook. Timothy Mclaughlin, WIRED, "The Weird, Dark History of 8chan," 6 Aug. 2019 That, of course, also makes Tumblr the antithesis of other social media hubs like Facebook and Twitter and Reddit. Angela Watercutter, WIRED, "The Internet Needs Tumblr More Than Ever," 14 Aug. 2019 Jeff Bridges‘ next role is the very antithesis of his iconic Big Lebowski character The Dude. Tyler Aquilina,, "Jeff Bridges to star in FX drama The Old Man as a retired CIA officer," 25 July 2019 Its zippy chill is the converse of the toddy’s tranquil warmth; its crisp, zingy gin base is the antitheses of the soothing, embracing whiskey. Liza Weisstuch,, "When it’s hot, buckle and make a Bee’s Knees," 15 July 2019 Everest today is the ugliest antithesis of good mountaineering. Mark Jenkins, Outside Online, "How to Fix Everest," 20 June 2019 The trend may be surprising because some people find them the antithesis of chic, but these shoes are about going places. Glamour, "Sporty Sandals Are the Footwear Trend You Need to Try This Spring," 20 Mar. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'antithesis.' 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 antithesis

1529, in the meaning defined at sense 1b(1)

History and Etymology for antithesis

Late Latin, from Greek, literally, opposition, from antitithenai to oppose, from anti- + tithenai to set — more at do

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Statistics for antithesis

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for antithesis

The first known use of antithesis was in 1529

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More Definitions for antithesis



English Language Learners Definition of antithesis

: the exact opposite of something or someone
: the state of two things that are directly opposite to each other


an·​tith·​e·​sis | \ an-ˈti-thə-səs How to pronounce antithesis (audio) \
plural antitheses\ -​ə-​ˌsēz \

Kids Definition of antithesis

: the exact opposite Poverty is the antithesis of wealth.

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Comments on antithesis

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


readily or continually undergoing change

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