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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web These days airports are essentially the antithesis of chill. Kathryn Romeyn, Travel + Leisure, 12 July 2021 Composed of nearly one-third each Christians, Sunnis, and Shiites who share power, albeit uneasily, in a rare Arab democracy with upcoming elections next year, Lebanon is the antithesis of the Iranian model. Peter J. Tanous, National Review, 30 June 2021 Listening, gathering and sharing these elements is the antithesis of ignorance. John Hayes, Forbes, 8 June 2021 These products are the antithesis of the 2014–18 makeup aesthetic, and that's by design. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, 2 June 2021 While Beauford Delaney was Baldwin’s idealized father figure (and the antithesis of his stepfather), the writer had a far more fraught bond with the novelist Richard Wright, his literary father. New York Times, 11 Dec. 2020 Windsor Terrace is in many ways the antithesis of another, more high-profile New York City neighborhood that, according to StreetEasy, saw rent and sales prices decline more than double the city average. Anne Kadet, WSJ, 18 May 2021 But Apple and Berkshire Hathaway appear to be the antithesis of that. Michael Del Castillo, Forbes, 13 May 2021 To most of us, the antithesis of healthy leafy greens is iceberg lettuce. Richard Howells, Forbes, 5 May 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About antithesis

Time Traveler for antithesis

Time Traveler

The first known use of antithesis was in 1529

See more words from the same year

Statistics for antithesis

Last Updated

17 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Antithesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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.

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!