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

Most coaches would be thrilled to see their 41-year-old quarterback can still drop a dime down the seam after skipping all of the voluntary work again this offseason, but Belichick is the antithesis of that notion. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Patriots' challenge in offseason is to merge new elements with old ones," 4 June 2019 There always seems to be a thesis (French Catholics, say) and an antithesis (Huguenots) and then, in the course of events, a synthesis (Henry’s conversion and the Edict of Nantes). Lance Morrow, WSJ, "Trump’s Chaos Theory," 15 Nov. 2018 The 25,000-square-foot, single-story house, set on 200 acres of valley floor in Rancho Mirage, is the antithesis of haute grandeur. Steven Stolman, House Beautiful, "Sunnylands: The California Mansion That Has Hosted Frank Sinatra, Queen Elizabeth, and More," 18 Apr. 2019 Baseball, in particular, is the antithesis of the instant-gratification smartphone era. WSJ, "Rule Changes in Pro Sports Always Favor More Offense," 26 Mar. 2019 She was literally created in the 1940s to be the antithesis of a male hero, an answer to masculinity—something that was not only revolutionary in its era but controversial. Jill Gutowitz, Glamour, "Captain Marvel Is a New Kind of Female Hero," 11 Mar. 2019 While Versace is famous for its over-the-top glitz and signature Italian glamour, Kors is the antithesis of that aesthetic, with a focus on affordable luxury and all-American ready-to-wear collections. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "Michael Kors Is Reportedly Close to Buying Versace for $2 Billion," 24 Sep. 2018 And that’s the antithesis of religious freedom, a constitutional right that the Supreme Court is in charge of interpreting for the rest of us. Jim Obergefell, Time, "I Brought the Case that Made Same-Sex Marriage Legal. Anthony Kennedy's Retirement Threatens All We Have Won," 28 June 2018 The golf course TPC River Highlands, a 6,800ish yard par-70 track is basically antithesis of Shinnecock. Daniel Rapaport,, "Travelers Championship Preview: History, Field, Odds, Predictions," 20 June 2018

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

9 Jun 2019

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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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