an·​tith·​e·​sis an-ˈti-thə-səs How to pronounce antithesis (audio)
plural antitheses an-ˈti-thə-ˌsēz How to pronounce antithesis (audio)
: the direct opposite
Her temperament is the very antithesis of mine.
: 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")
: opposition, contrast
the antithesis of prose and verse
: the second of two opposing words, clauses, or sentences that are being rhetorically contrasted
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 The newcomer is the antithesis of the third, all-black hull in the series. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 21 Nov. 2023 One of the key arguments of Broomfield’s film is that The Rolling Stones’ pop stardom was the antithesis of what Jones sought. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Nov. 2023 These rounded shapes are the antithesis of sleek modern lines that can feel a bit stark and are the type of furnishings that invite guests to sink into your sofa and relax. Maggie Gillette, Better Homes & Gardens, 31 Oct. 2023 The games also remind you of the endless possibilities that cities possess, the antithesis of how we have sometimes been encouraged to approach them: with caution. Jack Sheehan, New York Times, 11 Oct. 2023 Think the antithesis of the antiseptic American Psycho aesthetic. Jessica Ritz, WSJ, 6 Oct. 2023 Birkenstock, the 250-year-old German brand best known for its flat, orthopedic sandals embraced by hippies and grandparents, is no longer the antithesis of high-fashion. Megan Cerullo, CBS News, 12 Oct. 2023 Synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling the common truths in the formation of something new. Sevier Crespo, Rolling Stone, 24 July 2023 Until recently, Montana’s coolest mountain town was the antithesis of Aspen. Katie Jackson, Robb Report, 3 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'antithesis.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

Time Traveler
The first known use of antithesis was in 1529

Dictionary Entries Near antithesis

Cite this Entry

“Antithesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


an·​tith·​e·​sis an-ˈtith-ə-səs How to pronounce antithesis (audio)
plural antitheses -ˈtith-ə-ˌsēz How to pronounce antithesis (audio)
: the exact opposite : contrary

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