an·​tith·​e·​sis | \an-ˈti-thə-səs \
plural antitheses\-​ˌsēz \

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

The line, to be presented at Pitti Uomo this January, is the antithesis of a flash-in-the-pan collaboration. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Introducing Fila Fjord, a New Brand Helmed by Astrid Andersen," 4 Dec. 2018 Mistakes reveal effort, and effort is the antithesis of Instagram success. Rachel Sugar, Vox, "At the Pastagram, everyone was eating, and no one was taking pictures of it.," 15 Oct. 2018 Lots of projects come about in a very linear way, but this was the antithesis. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, "Artist Doug Aitken's Stunning New Detroit Exhibit Holds a Mirror Up to the Way America Lives," 8 Oct. 2018 Thomas, nominated by George H.W. Bush, was the antithesis of Marshall: a conservative and staunch originalist. Deanna Paul, Washington Post, "The Supreme Court has faced momentous resignations. Experts say Kennedy’s is unrivaled.," 29 June 2018 But peace has also opened the door to the candidacy of Mr Uribe’s antithesis, Gustavo Petro, an ex-member of M19, another guerrilla group, and a former mayor of Bogotá. The Economist, "Colombians hope for change in the first post-war presidential election," 26 May 2018 The neon beauty look, while rampant on fall runways, is the antithesis of top-model polish. Kate Branch, Vogue, "This DJ Sister Act Is the Only Beauty Inspiration You Need This Summer," 12 July 2018 And that’s strange, because Belvedere is almost the antithesis up an Up North vacation golf course. Detroit Free Press, "Ranking Michigan's top 10 vacation golf courses," 21 June 2018 Zidane must surely be the antithesis of that in European competition., "Why Zidane Should Be Remembered as the Champions League's Greatest Head Coach in Wake of Madrid Exit," 31 May 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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Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

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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 \
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).


to make faulty or ineffective

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