Examples of Antonyms: Types of Opposite Words

Updated December 13, 2021
Beijing Day and Night as Examples of Antonyms
    Beijing Day and Night as Examples of Antonyms
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Antonyms are words that have contrasting, or opposite, meanings. Like so much of the English language, the word antonym is rooted in the Greek language. The Greek word anti means "opposite," while onym means "name." Opposite name — that makes sense! Use examples of antonyms to help you choose the most appropriate word every time.

Types of Antonyms

Since the English language is so complex, people may disagree about which words truly have opposite meanings. However, there are three main types of antonyms.

Examples of Complementary Antonyms

Complementary antonyms are exact opposites that have no middle ground. For example, "off" is always the opposite of "on" — there's no other possibility for its antonym.

Examples of complementary antonyms include:

  • off — on
  • night — day
  • entrance — exit
  • exterior — interior
  • true — false
  • dead — alive
  • push — pull
  • pass — fail

Relational Antonyms Examples

Relational antonyms describe opposite words as they relate to each other. One word can't exist without the other. For example, a doctor with no patients can't be a doctor; a predator with no prey is not a predator.

Other examples of relational antonyms include:

  • above — below
  • servant — master
  • borrow — lend
  • give — receive
  • buy — sell
  • instructor — pupil

Examples of Graded Antonyms

Graded 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. For example, "sad" and "happy" are relative antonyms, because someone can be quite sad or quite happy, or mildly sad and mildly happy.

Examples of graded antonyms include:

  • young — elderly
  • hard — easy
  • happy — wistful
  • wise — foolish
  • fat — slim
  • warm — cool
  • early — late
  • fast — slow
  • dark — pale

Examples of Antonyms Created With Prefixes

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, typically prefixes that mean "not" or "without."

Adding Dis-

Some examples of antonyms created by adding the prefix dis- ("away from") are:

  • agree — disagree
  • appear — disappear
  • belief — disbelief
  • honest — dishonest

Adding In-

Adding the prefix in-, meaning "not," can make the following opposites:

  • tolerant — intolerant
  • decent — indecent
  • discreet — indiscreet
  • excusable — inexcusable

Adding Mis-

Using the prefix mis- (meaning "wrong") creates antonyms such as:

  • behave — misbehave
  • interpret — misinterpret
  • lead — mislead
  • trust — mistrust

Adding Un-

Examples of antonyms made by adding the prefix un-, which means "not," are:

  • likely — unlikely
  • able — unable
  • fortunate — unfortunate
  • forgiving — unforgiving

Adding Non-

By adding the prefix non- ("without" or "other than"), you can make these antonyms:

  • entity — nonentity
  • conformist — nonconformist
  • payment — nonpayment
  • sense — nonsense

Synonyms vs. 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. Synonyms 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.

Expand Your Vocabulary With Antonyms

When you know how to form and identify antonyms, you can double your vocabulary! Use these tips, tricks and examples to use antonyms correctly in your writing: