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

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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 Under manager Gian Piero Gasperini, the Italians are the antithesis to the modern day super-clubs -- such as opponent PSG -- and despite lacking the riches of others in the competition, Atalanta will fear no other team. Matias Grez, CNN, "Champions League draw: European giants discover their fate," 10 July 2020 There are no good options for playing a sport that is the antithesis of social distancing in the middle of a pandemic. Christine Brennan, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Ivy League's decision to cancel fall football sure to influence other conferences," 8 July 2020 His disparaging words displayed a blatant intolerance and disregard for the Black community that are the antithesis of what the Minnesota Twins stand for and value. Scott Boeck, USA TODAY, "Minnesota Twins remove statue of former owner Calvin Griffith outside Target Field over racist comments he made in 1978," 19 June 2020 The multicourse menus, striking presentations and culinary showmanship of Japanese omakase would seem on their face to be the antithesis of takeout and delivery dining. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "Sushi and sashimi for takeout? Here's how a new downtown Phoenix restaurant does it right," 17 June 2020 These traits—a fancy tech angle and the possibility of a get-rich-quick opportunity—represent the antithesis of the philosophy of the world's most famous value investors. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "Big investors like Bitcoin for the wrong reason," 14 June 2020 In some ways, Dating Around is the antithesis to Netflix’s other dating shows. Lydia Wang,, "If Dating Around Feels So Real, It’s Because It (Mostly) Is," 13 June 2020 Looney Tunes is pretty much the antithesis of that. James Hibberd,, "Elmer Fudd won't use a gun in HBO Max's Looney Tunes reboot," 8 June 2020 This is particularly true for a sport like football, in which gang tackling is the antithesis of social distancing. oregonlive, "Undaunted by an untamed coronavirus, Oregon’s Division I college sports programs plan to play," 4 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for antithesis

Time Traveler

The first known use of antithesis was in 1529

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Statistics for antithesis

Last Updated

16 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Antithesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for antithesis


How to pronounce antithesis (audio)

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.

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