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

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 Wall Street investment funds have a long of history of being the antithesis of diverse. Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times, "Financial World’s A-List Could Take Hollywood’s Cue on Inclusion," 18 June 2018 Often your leading scorer is egotistical and arrogant and Mairead is the antithesis of that. Steve Millar, Daily Southtown, "Lemont's Mairead Ruane is the 2018 Daily Southtown Girls Soccer Player of the Year," 13 June 2018 China’s acrobatic, high-stakes, sprawling champions are the antithesis of what investors have been taught to admire. The Economist, "Xiaomi’s forthcoming IPO shows how the rules of business are changing," 7 June 2018 Sprawl’s antithesis—the compressing of populations into increasingly dense urban cores—also has a host of problems. Anthony Alofsin, The Atlantic, "A Defense of the Suburbs," 6 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

18 Aug 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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