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

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
Recent Examples on the Web This show was the antithesis of that in a lot of ways. Alamin Yohannes,, 30 July 2022 Benintendi, who has seven career homers in 30 games at Yankee Stadium, is basically the antithesis of Joey Gallo, the outfielder who has hit .160 with 191 strikeouts in 418 at-bats since his trade from Texas last July. New York Times, 28 July 2022 Shankman explains how the film's message is the antithesis of Pfeiffer's character. Stephanie Wenger,, 21 July 2022 The very antithesis of a contractual obligation to maintain data accuracy, these stories illustrate the harm that can come from moving too fast. Robert Lindner, Forbes, 7 July 2022 Without that discipline, the Court’s decision-making would be subjected to intense political pressure — the very antithesis of a system that insulates the judiciary from politics so that cases can be decided pursuant to law, without fear or favor. The Editors, National Review, 3 May 2022 As much as Republicans want to cavil about the efficiency of state government, the truth is that the healthcare system in place now is the very antithesis of effectiveness and efficiency. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 14 Jan. 2022 The opposition Labour Party — led by former lawyer Keir Starmer, whose prosecutorial style is the antithesis of the deliberately ragged Johnson — has opened a commanding lead over the Conservatives in the polls. Alexander Smith, NBC News, 7 July 2022 Its antithesis, jealousy, is very much present in the work being done by such skilled actors as Kelvin Roston, Jr. (who plays the title role), Erik Hellman and Sean Fortunato. Chris Jones,, 19 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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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The first known use of antithesis was in 1529

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Last Updated

10 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Antithesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for antithesis


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on antithesis

Nglish: Translation of antithesis for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of antithesis for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about antithesis


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