Definition of antithesis in English:



  • 1A person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else.

    ‘love is the antithesis of selfishness’
    • ‘This is the love that is the antithesis of control.’
    • ‘But simply put, he is a huckster, the antithesis of the anti-politician, and someone with limited green credentials, to say the least.’
    • ‘If the major parties manage to get their heads round the concepts, we could see the exact antithesis of The Big Conversation.’
    • ‘Again, one could infer that it is the direct antithesis to works.’
    • ‘Everything has its antithesis - nothing can exist without its opposite.’
    • ‘Yet Edward always saw reconciliation in the form of its antithesis or opposite.’
    • ‘As the world knows, terrorism is the antithesis of love.’
    • ‘That selfish behavior is the antithesis of what ‘good’ Christians are taught.’
    • ‘This provokes an opposing viewpoint, the antithesis.’
    • ‘The antithesis of light and day, or the opposite.’
    • ‘Every theory, she says, has an antithesis - a theory that is in some way its direct opposite.’
    • ‘As time passes, what is new becomes old, and meanings change (the antithesis of the ‘timeless past’ beloved of many travel writers).’
    • ‘That is the antithesis of what private equity is set up to do.’
    • ‘This is not an easy case to argue in societies like ours, where a kind of narcissistic individualism is continually on display, creating a selfish cult of celebrity that is the antithesis of the values I'm advocating.’
    • ‘Since stagnation is the antithesis of growth, it is also the antithesis of life.’
    • ‘The Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980s was the direct antithesis of the Flyers.’
    • ‘Fixed identities rooted in the past represent the antithesis of historical thinking.’
    • ‘That is the converse of and the antithesis of the circumstances which exist here.’
    • ‘So any attempt to ignore the truth or deliberately not look in the direction where it obviously resides is the antithesis of what intelligence is about.’
    • ‘For the past 10 years it has been an antithesis of what is visualised in the education clause of the Freedom Charter.’
    converse, reverse, reversal, inverse, obverse
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    1. 1.1A contrast or opposition between two things.
      ‘the antithesis between occult and rational mentalities’
      • ‘Not only was the antithesis between the finite and the eternal, the human and the divine, treated by him as ontologically fundamental; in the final analysis it also governed the picture he drew of human nature and its basic orientation.’
      • ‘This opposition provides the most convincing rationale for his famous antithesis between bureaucracy and charisma.’
      • ‘There was no necessary antithesis between oral and literate forms of communication and preservation; the one did not have to destroy or undermine the other.’
      • ‘I fail to see any antithesis between deconstruction and construction.’
      • ‘The antithesis he relied upon is between at the one extreme, vague ideas, pipedreams and perhaps a little more specifically, a concrete ‘wish list’ and, at the other, a working embodiment for a proposal.’
      • ‘For these reasons I would like to begin by discussing the antithesis between Eve and the church.’
      • ‘This antithesis of two different worlds truly serves as a classification of groups, i.e., insiders and outsiders.’
      • ‘As a matter of fact no antithesis exists between deduction and induction.’
      • ‘Now, your Honours, the antithesis between the two approaches can be seen very clearly from a comparison of three short passages in the judgments.’
      • ‘The two halves of the work therefore corresponded to his antithesis between faith and understanding.’
      • ‘This season that means we are talking about contrasts and antitheses, wide skirts and narrow waists, silk and tweed, short skirts and high boots.’
      • ‘The antithesis creates balance but also invites the reader to weigh the scales.’
      • ‘So that modern monopoly is not a simple antithesis, it is on the contrary the true synthesis.’
      • ‘The new antithesis forms out of elements of the original contradiction that didn't make it into the synthesis.’
      • ‘Smith and Carlos say different: there is no necessary antithesis between athleticism and broader awareness.’
      • ‘This insistence upon a gendered dualism of sexual desire maps homosexuality onto an assumed antithesis of masculinity and femininity.’
      • ‘For Luther, the main antithesis is not between philosophy and theology; it is between good theology and bad theology, according to Gerhard Ebeling.’
      • ‘In setting up this notion of love as transcending law, the author is engaging in a false antithesis, for true love will not seek anything that is in opposition to the law of God.’
      contrast, opposition
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    2. 1.2[mass noun]A rhetorical or literary device in which an opposition or contrast of ideas is expressed.
      ‘figures of speech such as antithesis’
      [count noun] ‘his sermons were full of startling antitheses’
      • ‘The confluence in Browne's prefatory remarks of the topics of antiquarianism and medicine, and the rhetorical antitheses old-new and arising-burial is predictable in antiquarian discourse, where the gifted amateur reigned supreme.’
      • ‘This extravagant praise, moreover, takes the form of far-fetched metaphors, antitheses, hyperboles, superlatives, elaborate syntax, etc.’
      • ‘An analysis of this speech reveals that the student used varied repetition strategies, including anaphora, antithesis, chiasmus, and parallelism.’
      • ‘Othello's account of the origins of the handkerchief, another example of this discoursal antithesis, combines, in a contrastive fugal pattern, domestic detail and the mystical sublime of an empowering love.’
      • ‘He uses puns, paradoxes, antitheses, parallels, and various rhetorical and literary devices to construct expressions that have meanings beyond the obvious.’
  • 2[mass noun] (in Hegelian philosophy) the negation of the thesis as the second stage in the process of dialectical reasoning.

    Compare with synthesis
    • ‘Okay, there's the thesis and antithesis, where's the synthesis?’
    • ‘Often the synthesis, though adequately reconciling the previous thesis and antithesis, will turn out to be one-sided in some other respect.’
    • ‘Then, by weighing arguments and applying rules of logic, the thesis and antithesis are united into a synthesis.’
    • ‘It is also to be noted that the dialectical process is not simply from thesis and antithesis to final synthesis; it is an eternal, open-ended spiral of development.’
    • ‘The revelation of this mystical wholeness occurs through the dialectic: a thesis is manifest and contested by its antithesis, the resolution of which, leads to a new thesis and so on.’


Late Middle English (originally denoting the substitution of one grammatical case for another): from late Latin, from Greek antitithenai set against, from anti against + tithenai to place. The earliest current sense, denoting a rhetorical or literary device, dates from the early 16th century.