an·​ti·​thet·​i·​cal ˌan-tə-ˈthe-ti-kəl How to pronounce antithetical (audio)
variants or less commonly antithetic
: being in direct and unequivocal opposition : directly opposite or opposed
… some see the idea of a museum for rock & roll as antithetical to the music's rebellious ethic …Al Weisel
: constituting or marked by antithesis
antithetical conflict
antithetically adverb

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Antithetical and antithesis come from Greek antitithenai ("to oppose"). The oldest sense of antithesis refers to a language pattern that contrasts parallel ideas, as in "action, not words" or "they promised freedom and provided slavery," and antithetical originally referred to anything that was marked by such antithesis. For example, you could say "The phrase 'action, not words' is an antithetical construction." It is more common, however, for antithesis to mean "the exact opposite" and for antithetical to mean "directly opposite."

Choose the Right Synonym for antithetical

opposite, contradictory, contrary, antithetical mean being so far apart as to be or seem irreconcilable.

opposite applies to things in sharp contrast or in conflict.

opposite views on foreign aid

contradictory applies to two things that completely negate each other so that if one is true or valid the other must be untrue or invalid.

made contradictory predictions about whether the market would rise or fall

contrary implies extreme divergence or diametrical opposition.

contrary assessments of the war situation

antithetical stresses clear and unequivocal diametrical opposition.

a law that is antithetical to the very idea of democracy

Examples of antithetical in a Sentence

the antithetical forces of good and evil spiritual concerns and ideals that are antithetical to the materialism embraced by modern society
Recent Examples on the Web McMillon’s first tip may seem antithetical to how many view a high-powered executive—especially one running a company with an annual revenue of $648 billion. Eva Roytburg, Fortune, 4 June 2024 That’s antithetical to Trump’s zero-sum approach to life where people who live by the rules are suckers, truth is optional and manipulation is an acceptable premeditated strategy to deflect personal responsibility in the pursuit of unfettered power. Reader Commentary, Baltimore Sun, 12 Mar. 2024 The petition called the invitation antithetical to the pacifism Martin Luther King Jr., a Morehouse alumnus, expressed when opposing the Vietnam War. CBS News, 16 May 2024 That is antithetical to every freedom movement in this country. Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for antithetical 

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

Word History


see antithesis

First Known Use

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of antithetical was in 1583


Dictionary Entries Near antithetical

Cite this Entry

“Antithetical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

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