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 Currying favor was antithetical to his temperament. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 31 Jan. 2024 Recommended Authoritarianism and isolationism – two forces antithetical to the president’s conception of international affairs – are on the rise, abroad and at home. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, 18 Sep. 2023 Notably, Macron called out the repressive treatment of women by Islamic extremists, which is antithetical to France’s Republican values of equality. Chris Massaro, Fox News, 14 Jan. 2024 This antithetical dwelling sits at the top of a steep footpath cut into the side of Monte Tuoro, on Capri’s southeast corner. Lucy Alexander, Robb Report, 29 Oct. 2023 Among other things, a plethora of items that feature Christian nationalist motifs, intense patriotism and ominous suggestions of violence – all antithetical to the core values of the Amish. Susan L Trollinger, The Conversation, 18 Oct. 2023 Also antithetical to the rock-star archetype is that the trio prefers to live quiet, healthy lives. Erin Osmon, Los Angeles Times, 10 Oct. 2023 In practice, both these moves wind up feeling antithetical to what makes Spy vs. Spy so interesting: seeing eyeballs and bloody brain matter after one of the now-Caucasian spies gets cut in half by an elevator door makes the whole thing feel wrong. Gyasi Hall, Longreads, 12 Sep. 2023 And those critics also accuse the pro-Palestinian demonstrators of hypocrisy — saying that many of the rallies include side issues that would be antithetical to many Palestinians, like women’s issues and L.G.B.T.Q. rights. Michael Wines, New York Times, 24 Dec. 2023 See More

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 23 Feb. 2024.

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