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 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 Trump, of course, is the antithesis of all of this, and Houston's suburban voters didn't like it two years ago. Steve Kornacki, NBC News, "Bush-style Republicans once ruled Texas. Now Trump’s the new sheriff.," 7 Mar. 2018 Zero also helps us understand its antithesis, infinity, in all of its extreme weirdness. Brian Resnick, Vox, "The mind-bendy weirdness of the number zero, explained," 5 July 2018 Rhetoric v results Mr López Obrador promises to be the antithesis of the out-of-touch presidents who came before him. The Economist, "Will AMLO deliver?," 5 July 2018 This policy can serve as an antithesis to the legacy of the man whose shame inspired it. Jourdan Rodrigue, charlotteobserver, "Policy to curb toxic silence that protected Panthers owner needs a name. Here it is.," 28 June 2018 These actions of the students are the antithesis of democratic action. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "David Goldblatt, the South African Photographer Who Documented Life Under Apartheid, Has Died at 87," 27 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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Last Updated

13 Oct 2018

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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).


evasion of direct action or statement

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