an·​to·​nym ˈan-tə-ˌnim How to pronounce antonym (audio)
: a word of opposite meaning
The usual antonym of good is bad.
antonymic adjective
antonymous adjective
antonymy noun

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Some Differences Between Synonyms and Antonyms

The English language (and, we may presume, many other languages) has both antonyms and synonyms. There are many more words with synonyms than there are words with antonyms, since many things exist which do not have an opposite (the word sandwich, for instance, may be said to have synonyms in the words hoagie, grinder, submarine, and many other words, but there is no opposite of sandwich). Antonym is also a much more recent addition to English than synonym is; it first appeared in the 1860s, whereas synonym has been used for more than 500 years. Additionally, both nouns have adjectival forms: synonymous and antonymous. Synonymous, which is often used loosely ("She has become synonymous with good taste"), is the more common of the two.

Example Sentences

“Hot” and “cold” are antonyms.
Recent Examples on the Web Or was it bungled when Snyder was replaced by his tonal antonym, Joss Whedon? Max Cea, Vulture, 18 Mar. 2021 Cooper, on the other hand, is the living, breathing antonym of controversy. Nick Martin, The New Republic, 26 Oct. 2020 And still the signs fluttered and scattered, the book of antonyms ripped up by Sanders delegates, who tore at its pages and yanked at its binding, its brittle glue. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 29 July 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'antonym.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


borrowed from French antonyme, probably back-formation (after synonyme synonym) from antonymie "opposition of words with contrary senses," borrowed from Greek antōnymía "pronoun (i.e., a word substituting for another), interchange of names," from ant-, anti- "in opposition to, in place of" + -ōnymos "having a name (of the kind specified)" + -ia -ia entry 1 — more at anti-, homonymous

Note: French antonyme appears in the title and text of Dictionnaire des antonymes ou contremots (Paris & Berlin, 1842), an early dictionary of antonyms compiled from 17th-18th-century authors by the Alsatian philologist Paul Ackermann (1812-46), who may have coined the word. In English antonym was promulgated, if not first used, by the British clergyman Charles John Smith (1819-72) in Synonyms and Antonyms, Collected and Contrasted (London: Bell & Daldy, 1867), which went through several subsequent editions and reprints.

First Known Use

1857, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of antonym was in 1857

Dictionary Entries Near antonym

Cite this Entry

“Antonym.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


: a word of opposite meaning
"hot" and "cold" are antonyms

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