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What Are Antonyms? Definition, Types, Examples & Importance

By definition, antonyms are words that express contrary or opposite ideas, that is, whose meaning is opposite about a term. 

Common Antonyms Examples

We could exemplify this concept by saying that the antonym of “white” is “black” or, that the antonym of “light” is “darkness.” This word has a Greek origin and etymologically it is formed by a suffix that is “anti”, whose meaning is contrary, and “onoma” which means name, so the specific concept of the word is “contrary to the name”.

This relationship is called antonymy and can be of different types, which will depend on how the words contradict each other. It is important to highlight that there are a large number of these words in any language, there are even dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms, which are very useful for those who are in the process of learning a particular language.

Characteristics of antonyms

  • They develop mental capacity .
  • They must belong to the same grammatical category.
  • They move in opposite directions, and always under the same measure, for example when we say too cold or too hot.

One of the great skills that a person must have when finding a job is the ability to communicate both orally and in writing, that is, they must have a great breadth and richness in vocabulary, and this is precisely what knowledge gives. and the diversity of the words you know and use at any given time. This is where the use of these words promotes the richness of the language.

Types of antonyms

There are various types, among them we can mention the following:

Lexical classification

  • Gradual antonym : Here the words are opposite in a gradual way. We can exemplify this in the following way, if we are looking for the antonym of the word ” cold ” we could say that it is “temperate”, but the word “hot” can also be used, as well as that of the word  “white” is ” black”, but it can also be “gray”.
  • Complementary antonym : One eliminates the probability that the other exists, they are terms that we can define as incompatible. To make it better understood, here is an example: alive-dead.
  • Reciprocal antonym : The words are opposite in a complementary way, one does not occur without the other. Example: buy-sell.

Antonyms facilitate the understanding of a text or a dialogue, since perhaps the person does not know a concept at a certain moment, but knows the opposite, and can deduce it .

Morphological classification

Within this classification there are also lexical and morphological antonyms. The first are those that have different lexemes , for example  “cold” and “heat”, while the morphological ones are those that are formed by adding a prefix to the lexeme of the word that is opposite, for example: legal-illegal, known- unknown, moral-amoral, possible-impossible.

About synonyms and antonyms

Synonyms, unlike antonyms, are terms that share the same meaning or whose meaning is very similar, which is why a synonym is the opposite of an antonym. Synonyms are words that can be interchanged and do not alter the meaning of what is being said or written.

However, it is said that synonymy does not occur 100%, which does  happen with antonymy, since in the first there are nuances between the terms, in this sense there are those who maintain that synonymy does not exist in itself, but rather is of approximations of terms.

Almost all words have an antonym, but not all of them are strictly opposed, but there are some, for example the words “father” and “son”, or also “buy” and “sell”, that is, one does not exist without the other. Knowledge of both antonyms and synonyms allows for the enrichment of the language.

A small list of words that can help you get a clearer idea about it:

(Order: word, antonym, synonym)

  • Child  – adult – senior.
  • Tall (height) – short – small.
  • Benefit  – curse – evil.
  • Cold  – hot – hot.
  • Solidarity  – insolidarity – inconsideration.
  • Beautiful  – ugly – horrible.
  • Joke  – vapidity – simpleton.
  • Exit  – enter – enter.
  • Activation  – inactivity – deactivated.

Activities to acquire antonyms

Being aware of the importance of antonyms and their fundamental role in any language, it would be normal that, regardless of what we do or what our interests are, we want to further develop our language by acquiring vocabulary in an entertaining and even fun way.

Below we present some examples of activities to acquire antonymy terms:


The  crossword puzzle is a pastime that consists of filling in the blank boxes of a square or rectangular drawing with letters so that when read horizontally and vertically they form words: for this only their definitions are offered.

We can find thousands of these on the Internet and take them as hobbies for those moments when we are bored or simply want to learn antonyms while exercising our brain.

Exercise texts

They are educational documents that are designed to tell an attractive and interesting story that show a wide range of terms and other literary resources that, as their main advantage, give you a context in which you can place the resources offered.

Illustrated cards

These usually contain drawings or images that are contrary in many aspects, but that still retain some similarity so that they are easy to identify. The activity consists of relying solely on visual content in order to develop as many terms as possible.

In many educational centers they are also used as a competition between students where, logically, the one who says the greatest number of antonyms in the shortest amount of time wins.

The ladder of antonyms

This is a version of the ‘Ladder’ game focused on antonyms : it consists of rolling the dice and advancing to one of the squares; To continue advancing you must say the adjective opposite to the one written in the box. If you don’t know, you will have to go back to the beginning. Each game can have a maximum of 5 players.

Terms test

It consists of a small test that you can take yourself to determine the number of antonym words you know about a specific topic. It is recommended that you do it after implementing the other resources shown, as a review.

Importance of antonyms in language

Antonyms are a fundamental part in some of the concentration fields, for example, etymology, psychology, writing or psycholinguistics and dialect fixation in children .

It is used to express the double restriction in all its modalities and the correspondence of the registers as spoken dialect in the written work, as to certainties and fiction, as in the informal norm and the use of dialect.

Condensing the importance of this grammatical resource in both etymology and phonetics, we find a linguistic factor that can sometimes determine the structures of the language .

To begin with, the etymology of these terms has unequivocally demonstrated their ability to better clarify the meaning of words, making them unmistakable: practically equivalent to a dictionary. Along these lines, engagement in the field of etymology is of particular importance.

In the field of phonetics, for example, antonym words serve as a source of advancing dialect developments through word formation, where pairs of terms with the same root as the sentence structure are identified by the method of comparison of antonyms and through additions.


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