Antonyms are words that have contrasting, or opposite, meanings. Like so much of the English language, “antonym” is rooted in the Greek language. The Greek word anti means opposite, while onym means name. Opposite name – that makes sense!
Since the English language is so complex, people may disagree about which words truly have opposite meanings. With the examples of antonyms listed below, we try to clear that up and offer some tactics for choosing the most appropriate word every time.
Types of Antonyms
You may be interested to know that there are three different kinds of antonyms. Let’s take a look at each one:
Complementary: Complementary antonyms have no middle ground. Examples include:
- boy — girl, off — on, night — day, entrance — exit, exterior — interior, true — false, dead — alive, push — pull, pass — fail
Relational: These are similar to complementary antonyms, except that both must exist for them to be antonyms of each other. Check out these examples:
- above — below, doctor — patient, husband — wife, servant — master, borrow — lend, give — receive, predator — prey, buy — sell, instructor — pupil
Graded: These antonyms deal with levels of comparison and they can be two words on a scale. Many are relative terms, which can be interpreted differently by different people. Examples include:
- young — elderly, hard — easy, happy — wistful, wise — foolish, fat — slim, warm — cool, early — late, fast — slow, dark — pale
Add a Prefix to Create an Antonym
Sometimes, you don’t need to search for another word entirely. It’s possible to create an antonym simply by adding a prefix to the word.
Some examples of antonyms created by adding the prefix dis- are:
- Agree → disagree
- Appear → disappear
- Belief → disbelief
- Honest → dishonest
Adding the prefix in- can make the following opposites:
- Tolerant → intolerant
- Decent → indecent
- Discreet → indiscreet
- Excusable → inexcusable
Using the prefix mis- create antonyms like:
- Behave → misbehave
- Interpret → misinterpret
- Lead → mislead
- Trust → mistrust
Examples of antonyms made by adding the prefix un- are:
- Likely → unlikely
- Able → unable
- Fortunate → unfortunate
- Forgiving → unforgiving
By adding the prefix non- you can make these antonyms:
- Entity → nonentity
- Conformist → nonconformist
- Payment → nonpayment
- Sense → nonsense
Synonyms and Antonyms
A synonym is basically the opposite of an antonym. It is a word that means the same, or almost the same, as another word. They help us avoid repetition in our speech and writing and expand our vocabulary. Synonyms and antonyms are used every day by teachers, students, writers, editors, poets, and songwriters to add variety to writing.
Use Your Thesaurus
If you still haven’t found find the perfect antonym, a thesaurus can be your best friend. Make use of YourDictionary’s Thesaurus. This reference tool will offer you a plethora of related words, plus you can see the word used in a sentence, and any related articles to the term.
If you’re just introducing this concept to the little ones in your life, watch their knowledge and understanding blossom with this First Grade Synonyms and Anonyms Worksheet.