Antonymy. Classification of Antonyms


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A synonym is a word, adjective, verb or expression that has the same meaning as another, or almost the same meaning. Synonyms are other words that mean the same thing. This avoids repetitions in a sentence without changing its meaning.

Antonym definition

An antonym is a word, adjective, verb or expression whose meaning is opposite to that of a word. Antonyms are used to express the opposite of a word.

Use of synonyms and antonyms

Synonyms and antonyms are intended to:

Examples of synonyms

The words acknowledge, enjoy, welcome are synonyms for «appreciate».

Examples of antonyms

In your daily life, for writing an email, a text, an essay, if you want to avoid repetitions or find the opposite meaning of a word. This site allows you to find in one place, all the synonyms and antonyms of the English language. is more than 70,800 synonyms and 47,200 antonyms available. Here you use the antonyms for root. These antonyms of the word root are provided for information only.

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Synonym definition

In your daily life, for writing an email, a text, an essay, if you want to avoid repetitions or find the opposite meaning of a word. This site allows you to find in one place, all the synonyms and antonyms of the English language. is more than 70,800 synonyms and 47,200 antonyms available. Here you use the antonyms for stable. These antonyms of the word stable are provided for information only.

Antonyms are words of the same language rendering contradictory or contrary notions. Complete or perfect antonyms are very rare. Antonyms are always coupled and belong to the same part of speech. They are different in sound form and are characterized by different types of semantic contrast of the denotational meaning.

Among antonyms we distinguish several groups:

3. Incompatibles are presented by antonyms with the common component of meaning and the reverse of hyponymy with the relations of exclusion (not of contradiction)

morning ≠ night ≠ evening – time (common)

red ≠ black ≠ blue – colour (common)

4. Antonyms with a contrary vector of direction:

5. Conversive antonyms denote reversive notions:

Derivational antonyms are words with the same root but with affixes which serve to deny the quality stated in the stem. A pair of derivational antonyms form a privative binary opposition:

Root (absolute) and derivational antonyms are different from the point of view of morphological and semantic characteristics. While root antonyms form a gradual opposition clever – not bright of average mental abilities – not quick-brained – unintelligent – silly, derivational antonyms always build a privative binary opposition: kind – unkind, real – unreal.

At the same time, words, which do not form an antonymic pair may be opposed to each other in certain contexts, this becoming contextual antonyms.

Antonyms are employed in fiction as a very effective stylistic device. This phenomenon is named “antithesis” (from Greek anti “against”; thesis “statement”) and is applied to any active confrontation of notions, really and presumably contrastive.

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(Ch. Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities”)

Antithesis may concern two different objects with the opposite characteristics and absolute incompatibility:

(O’Henry “The Gifts of the Magi”)

“High” and “light” are not antonyms denoting incompatible notions, but their confrontation is quite legitimate in the context.

A considerable number of set phrases are based on antithesis:

dead or alive, black and white, the first and the last, from top to toe, sooner or later.

Antithesis is used in every type of emotional speech of all stylistic registers.

Antonyms are meanings opposed to in meaning, but belonging to the same part of speech. They have different spelling and sound. It is very simple to determine the meaning of one antonym through another; it is enough to give it the form of negation. For example, the direct antonym, by the way, say — do not be silent, sad — not cheerful, and so on. In this article, we will examine in more detail the concept of “antonyms” and find out their types.

Due to the richness of the Russian language, there are many nuances and subtleties in any part of speech. It is not for nothing that numerous textbooks on linguistics are studied in schools and some higher educational institutions.

Types of Antonyms

They are different in structure.

The first kind, in turn, is also divided into: antonyms-euphemisms (loyally express the opposite, difference, for example: significant — insignificant) and enantioses (express the opposition with the same word, for example: browse (in the sense of see) and browse (in the sense of skip).

Another group is also distinguished: contextual antonyms are words that differ in meaning only in a particular case. For example, in the author’s performance: she had not eyes — but eyes .

In the sentence, antonyms play a stylistic role and are used to make speech more expressive. Often they are used as an antithesis (contrast, contrast). Example: «Who was nobody will become everything.» Sometimes antonyms form an oxymoron (a compound of an incompatible). Example: «Hot Snow», «Living Corpse».

Antonyms are widely used not only in the names of works, but also in proverbs and sayings.

Antonyms – a class of words grouped together on the basis of the semantic relations of opposition. Antonyms are words belonging to one part of speech sharing certain common semantic characteristics and in this respect they are similar to such semantic classes as synonyms, lexical sets, lexico-semantic groups. (lexical sets (предметные или тематические группы) — words denoting different things correlated on extralinguistic grounds: lion, tiger, leopard, puma, cat refer to the lexical set of “the animals of the cat family’; words describing different sides of one and the same general notion are united in a lexico-semantic group: group denoting “physical movement” – to go, to turn, to run). There exist different classifications of antonyms.

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Structurally, antonyms can be divided into antonyms of the same root (1), e.g. to do – to undo, cheerful – cheerless, and antonyms of different roots (2), e.g. day – night, rich – poor.

Semantically, antonyms may be classified into contradictories, contraries and incompatibles.

1. Contradictories represent the type of semantic relations that exist between pairs like, for example, dead – alive, single – married. Contradictory antonyms are mutually opposed, they deny one another. Contradictories form a privative binary opposition, they are members of two-term sets. To use one of the words is to contradict the other and to use “not” before one of them is to make it semantically equivalent to the other: not dead = alive; not single = married.

2. Contraries are antonyms that can be arranged into a series according to the increasing difference in one of their qualities. The most distant elements of this series will be classified as contrary notions. Contraries are gradable antonyms, they are polar members of a gradual opposition which may have intermediate members. This may be observed in cold – hot and cool – warm which are intermediate members. Thus, we may regard as antonyms not only cold and hot but also cold and warm. Contrary antonyms may also be considered in terms of degrees of the quality involved. Thus, water may be cold or very cold, and water in one glass may be colder than in another glass.

3. Incompatibles are antonyms which are characterized by the relations of exclusion. Semantic relations of incompatibility exist among antonyms with a common component of meaning and may be described as the reverse of hyponymy. For example, to say morning is to say not afternoon, not evening, not night. The use of one member of this set implies the exclusion of the other members of the set. Incompatibles differ from contradictories as incompatibles are members of the multiple-term sets while contradictories are members of two-term sets. A relation of incompatibility may be also observed between colour terms since the choice of red, for example, entails the exclusion of black, blue, yellow, etc.

1) Borrowing from other languages. Borrowing is the most powerful and significant source of synonymy in English words. English is rich in synonymic pairs and groups which consist of words that can be traced to different languages such as Latin, Greek, French, Scandinavian. The native synonym is, as a rule, more general in its denotational meaning, stylistically neutral, possessing no specific connotations and on the whole more commonly and frequently used in speech. Its synonyms of Latin, Greek or French origin are often stylistically marked and refer to bookish layer (some of them are even learned words or terms). Such synonymic rows make double-scaled or triple-scaled patterns:

work (native) – labour (French)

to rise – to mount (French) – to ascend (Latin)

to ask (native) – to question (French) – to interrogate (Latin)

to end (native) – to finish (French) – to complete (Latin).

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2) Borrowings from different dialects and variants of the English language. Especially large is the group of American synonyms, e.g. underground – subway, flat – apartment, money – buck, autumn – fall.

3) Semantic changes in English words (see Chapter 2 Unit 4).

4) Various ways and means of word-building (affixation, prefixation, suffixation, conversion, compounding, clipping, etc.), e.g. righteous – rightful, trader – tradesman, doctor – doc, laboratory – lab.

5) Set expressions consisting of a verb with a postpositive are widely used in present day English: to choose – pick out, abandon – give up, postpone – put off, return – come back, quarrel – fall out.

6) Euphemism, e.g. the euphemistic expression merry coincides in denotation with the word drunk it substituted but the connotation of the word merry faded out and so the utterance on the whole is milder and less offensive. Very often a learned word which sounds less familiar and less offensive or derogative is used, for example, drunkenness – intoxication, sweat – perspiration (cf. Russian terms экспроприация – раскулачивание). The effect is achieved because the periphrastic expression is not so harsh, sometimes jocular: poor – underprivileged; lodger – paying guest.

Antonyms may be defined as two or more words of the same language belonging to the same part of speech and to the same semantic field, identical in style and nearly identical in distribution, associated and often used together so that their denotative meanings render contradictory or contrary notions, e.g. poor – rich, to exclude – to include, warm – cold.

A polysemantic word can have one or more antonyms for each of its lexico-semantic variants, for example, 1. dull:: interesting, amusing, entertaining;2. dull:: clever, bright, capable;3. dull:: active.

Antonyms can be classified according to the part of speech they belong to into substantive warmth – coldness, adjectival kind – wicked, verbal to rise – to fall and adverbial ones high – low.

Most antonyms are adjectives which is natural as qualitative features can be easily compared and opposed, for example, wide:: narrow, high:: low, strong:: weak, old:: young. Verbal antonyms are less in number: to lose:: to find, to live:: to die, to open:: to close. Substantive antonyms are even less in number: friend:: enemy, joy:: grief, good:: evil, love:: hatred. Antonymic adverbs fall into two groups: adverbs formed from corresponding adjectives, for example, warmly:: coldly, merrily:: sadly, loudly:: quietly, and adverbs proper, for example, now:: then, here:: there, ever:: never, up:: down, in:: out.

Another classification of antonyms is a morphological one:

1) root (absolute) antonyms – are antonyms having different roots: e.g. good – bad, beautiful – ugly, kind – cruel, old – young, right:: wrong, day – night, rich – poor, failure – success, dwarf – gigantic;

2) derivational antonyms – are antonyms having the same root but different affixes, e.g. happy – unhappy, kind – unkind, to like – to dislike, possible – impossible, regular – irregular, to do – to undo.

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