Antonym. What is this expression, what are the types of antonyms?

An antonym is a term that means the opposite, the opposite. We usually learn about it in the first years of education, so we use it intuitively. We sometimes confuse it with an oxymoron. How to tell them apart? What is the name of the scientific discipline that deals with antonyms?

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1. What is an antonym?

Antoni (from the Greek anti - opposite and onoma - name, title, word) means a word and an expression with a meaning opposite to another word or expression. We understand it as a group or a couple of words.

Antonymic pairs are obvious combinations such as:

  • warm cold;
  • light - dark;
  • good bad.

In groups of antonymic words, on the other hand, there can be many antonyms of a given word, for example, to the word "mess" we can find many opposing expressions, such as: order, ordering, discipline, etc. The science that deals with antonyms, among others, is lexicology.

An interesting fact is that the word "antonym" also has an antonym and is a synonym for it.

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2. Formation of antonyms

We often construct antonyms using the prefixes a-, anti, or not-, e.g .:

  • unused;
  • immortal;
  • antiallergic;
  • asocial.

However, it is not always possible to create an antonym using a prefix. For example, the antonym of the word "dark" will not be "dark" or "non-dark" but "light".

3. What are the types of antonyms?

Linguists divide antonyms into three types:

  • proper antonyms;
  • complementary antonyms;
  • conversions.

3.1. Proper Antonyms

They are simply opposite words. It is worth noting that they are graded:

  • smart - stupid, smarter - stupid, smartest - dumbest;
  • big - small, bigger - smaller, biggest - smallest.

They are called parametric expressions because they specify properties that can be graded.

3.2. Complementary Antonyms

In other words: words with complementary meanings. They are characterized by the fact that the denial of one automatically confirms the other, e.g.

  • She is married - she is not a virgin;
  • Krzysztof has no hair - Krzysztof is bald.

This type of derivation does not occur in the other two types of antonyms.

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3.3. Conversions

This kind of antonym has its counterpart in the logical notion of "convers" - an inverse relation characterized by opposition, intransitive and symmetry. An example would be:

  • sell - buy;
  • doctor - patient;
  • gain - lose;
  • fix - break.

4. What is the role of antonyms in the language?

The primary function of antonyms is to emphasize the contrasts expressed through language. These words show the difference in emotions and thoughts. In addition, they enrich the vocabulary, although in some cases their use does not guarantee correct expression.

It is also worth noting that sometimes it is not possible to construct an antonymic expression in the context of the entire range of meanings of the expression.

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5. What is the difference between an antonym and an oxymoron?

We sometimes confuse antonyms with oxymorons. An oxymoron is the use of words that not only are semantically contradictory, but one of them also defines the other.


  • Antoni: "I walk on ice and fire";
  • Oxymoron: "Fire Ice".
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