What are antonyms?

Even if you finished school a long time ago, it’s still not too late to figure out what antonyms are, including contextual ones. Antonyms are words of one part of speech with directly opposite lexical meanings, contrasting phenomena: good - evil, true - false, say - be silent, much - little, up - down, appear - disappear. Antonyms are pairs of words based on a common attribute (height, weight, quality, quantity, feeling, time of day, space), but the meanings are opposite.

Now it should be very clear what the word antonyms are. However, this is not all the necessary information. The proper names, numerals and pronouns have no antonyms. However, official words can also be associated with antonymic relations: pros and cons, with and without (They like to drink tea with sugar and without).

Classification of Antonyms

The structure of the word antonyms are divided into:

  • multi-rooted (forward - back);
  • single-root: they are formed with the help of consoles opposite in meaning (enter - exit), as well as with the help of the prefix, which is added to the original word (monopoly - antitrust).

Typically, antonyms carry differently rooted words, but some linguists consider antonyms and such pairs of words: calm - restless, big - small, to love - not to love. Here the antonym is formed with the help of the negative particle "not", the prefixes "demon", "not", etc.

In terms of language and speech, there are antonyms:

  • linguistic (customary): they exist in the language system (loud - quiet);
  • speech (occasional): arise in a particular context. More often they are found in proverbs and poetry.

So what is contextual antonyms? Contextual antonyms are words that are contrasted in a specific context. This phenomenon is individually author's in nature: wolves and sheep (as you understand, the polarity of the meanings of these words is not fixed in the language). A writer can discover opposing qualities in certain concepts and oppose them in speech: sunlight - moonlight, one year - all life, not a mother, but a daughter. The juxtaposition of such concepts is not reproduced in the language. These are occasional (contextual, speech) antonyms.

Antonyms in terms of actions are:

  • commensurate: they denote action and reaction (to grow rich - to become poor, to rise - to lie down);
  • disproportionate: in a broad sense, they denote action and the absence of action (to ignite - not to light, to think - to reflect).

Polysemantic words and their antonyms

In different values, a polysemantic word can have different antonyms.

For example: fresh bread - stale bread, fresh thought - battered thought, fresh evening - a sultry evening, etc.


Antonyms can be a means of poetic expression. This technique is called antithesis. Mostly the antithesis is characteristic of poetic and oratorical speech: “black evening, white snow” (A. A. Blok). The antithesis is also found in the titles: “Thick and Thin” (A. P. Chekhov), “Fathers and Sons” (I. S. Turgenev),

So, now you know what antonyms are, examples of these pairs of words will not be difficult for you. Remember what contextual antonyms and antithesis are.