Definition of antagonist in English:



  • 1A person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary.

    ‘the woman was forcing her antagonist's face into the mud’
    • ‘It also means that copyright gives no one the exclusive right to tell stories about archaeologists in search of artifacts hidden in snake-infested caves while simultaneously confronting dangerous human antagonists.’
    • ‘Thus, when the culture wars began in the late 1960s, the antagonists of a traditional curriculum were pushing against an open door.’
    • ‘But, as fate would have it, Darcy was called home early, and the two old antagonists once more confronted each other.’
    • ‘About 4 000 French and 1 200 West African peacekeepers are patrolling the no man's land between the antagonists.’
    • ‘Most of these countries, of course, are traditional adversaries or antagonists.’
    • ‘After breaking through my emotional blocks, I was ready to confront the antagonists in my life who contributed to my problem.’
    • ‘The stakes of nuclear war engage not just the survival of the antagonists, but the fate of mankind.’
    • ‘Protagonists generally have needs, desires, goals, aversions and fears, and their efforts to achieve their goals are generally complicated or thwarted by an antagonist, who may be hostile to the protagonist.’
    • ‘It's hard to have a really menacing antagonist when the antagonist isn't ever really sure what it is he's trying to accomplish.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, their antagonists, soldiers, are ordinary people on ordinary pay, fighting - a thing that isn't attractive or tidy.’
    • ‘It is critical that even as we unveil the motivation of opponents and antagonists, we are careful not to inadvertently help them in their effort to disrupt our work.’
    • ‘Where established governments proscribe popular vengeance in favor of legal prosecution, these revolutions liberated armed antagonists from judicial constraints.’
    • ‘And more significantly, political and technical help has to be given in abundance for peaceful negotiations with the antagonists.’
    • ‘As ultimate commander of the military, he must now move decisively and evenhandedly to disarm the antagonists.’
    • ‘In addition, Taoists sometimes saw in Buddhism an antagonist and competitor rather than a colleague.’
    • ‘So the long and twisting battle begins, with numerous front-lawn confrontations between the two antagonists.’
    • ‘When he'd regained equilibrium, he whirled around to confront his antagonist.’
    • ‘I don't know what I expected to hear or learn but I know what I did not expect was that it be turned into a party political broadcast on behalf of the main antagonists in the upcoming general election.’
    • ‘They wander off on their own, they blow up a poacher's shack for no apparent reason, and they attempt to confront their wily antagonists head on.’
    • ‘Strikingly, however, mainstream political antagonists, and even some radical dissenters, embraced clashing versions of the egalitarian tradition.’
    adversary, opponent, enemy, foe, nemesis, rival, competitor, contender
    opposition, competition, the other side
    View synonyms
  • 2Biochemistry
    A substance which interferes with or inhibits the physiological action of another.

    ‘LSD is a serotonin antagonist’
    Compare with agonist
    • ‘Leukotriene inhibitors and leukotriene-receptor antagonists are effective in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as asthma.’
    • ‘It is also an effective antagonist or inhibitor of cortisol, a stress hormone that maintains the integrity of the circulatory system.’
    • ‘Progress has been made in the development of new anti-emetic drugs, particularly the serotonin antagonists which are potent inhibitors of chemotherapy-induced vomiting.’
    • ‘The use of selective serotonin antagonists for early-onset alcohol dependence also has been investigated, with positive results.’
    • ‘The serotonin antagonists are effective and have few side effects.’
  • 3Anatomy
    A muscle whose action counteracts that of another specified muscle.

    Compare with agonist
    • ‘Moving through a complete range of motion will strengthen the agonist and stretch the antagonist muscle.’
    • ‘The anterior tibialis muscle was chosen because of its function as an antagonist to the peroneal muscles.’
    • ‘The group moving the body part is called the agonist with the opposing group called the antagonist.’
    • ‘This can be studied by transposing the innervation of a muscle to its antagonist, or by transposing one of its tendons to the opposite side of a joint, such that the mechanical action of the muscle is reversed.’
    • ‘Optimal functioning of the stabilizing muscles depends not only on the force production of these muscles in relation to synergists, antagonists, and prime movers of a joint, but also on the correct timing of muscle activation.’


Late 16th century: from French antagoniste or late Latin antagonista, from Greek antagōnistēs, from antagōnizesthai struggle against (see antagonize).