An antonym is a type of word that has the opposite meaning of a different word. For example, tall and short are antonyms that have opposite definitions. Understanding what antonym is and learning opposite words can help you with writing and speaking in English.
The best way to learn opposite words in English is to study the antonym vocabulary list. We created an opposite words list containing the most commonly used English antonyms. Go over this list several times, and you’ll be able to use these words easily in writing and speaking.
Different Types of Antonyms
Let’s first go over the different types of antonyms in English.
Contronyms or Auto-antonyms are words that are homographs as well as antonyms. In other words, a contronym is a word that has two opposite meanings.
Examples of contronyms:
- Bill: a payment, or an invoice for payment
- Dust: to remove the dust from the surface, or to cover the surface with a powdered substance
- Fast: quick, or stuck or made stable
Graded or gradable antonyms are pairs of words that have opposite meanings that lie on a continuous spectrum. These words are typically adjectives that can be qualified by adverbs (e.g., very, surprisingly, quite, etc.). For example, hot and cold are graded antonyms, which means that you can grade how hot or how cold something is. You could say, “This cup of coffee is hot”, but you can also say, “This cup of coffee is extremely hot.”
Examples of graded antonyms:
- Small – Big
- Wet – Dry
- Friendly – Unfriendly
- Interesting – Boring
Unlike graded antonyms, complementary antonyms do not lie on a continuous spectrum. Complementary antonyms are also known as direct or contradictory antonyms, which probably better reflect the definition. These opposite words can exist independently and do not need the other word to exist. Something can be one or the other, but not both of a pair of complementary antonyms.
Examples of complementary antonyms:
- Night – Day
- Push – Pull
- Yes – No
- True – False
Converse antonyms also known as relational antonyms are pairs of opposite words that are closely related and cannot exist without each other. These words are opposite in terms of their relationship. For example, an employer cannot exist without an employee.
Examples of complementary antonyms:
- Borrow – Lend
- Doctor – Patient
- Near – Far
- Parent – Child
Opposite Words with Examples
Now let’s look at a list of the most common opposite words in English with definitions and examples.
Awake: to arouse from sleep
Asleep: being in a state of sleep
Example: After a long day at work, she struggled to stay awake, but eventually, exhaustion took over, and she peacefully fell asleep.
Clean: free from dirt, marks, or stains
Dirty: covered or marked with unclean substance
Example: The house was clean until the kids returned with dirty shoes.
Correct: free from error
Wrong: not correct or true
Example: Although he was initially confident that his answer was correct, upon reviewing the test, he realized he had made a wrong assumption.
Deep: a significant distance from the surface, having great depth
Shallow: a small depth, lacking depth
Example: The ocean was deep and mysterious, with dark abysses that fascinated deep-sea explorers, while the nearby coastal waters were shallow and clear, perfect for snorkelling.
Empty: a state of containing nothing or having no substance
Full: a state of being filled to capacity or containing all that is possible
Example: After finishing the delicious meal, the once-full plate was now empty, satisfying both hunger and taste buds.
Fast: a high speed or quick rate of movement
Slow: a low speed or a leisurely pace
Example: She was amazed by how fast the sports car zoomed down the highway while the old truck moved along at a slow and steady pace.
Happy: a state of joy, contentment, or pleasure
Sad: a feeling of sorrow, unhappiness, or disappointment
Example: Despite the sad news of her friend’s departure, she couldn’t help but feel happy as she recalled the wonderful memories they had shared together.
Healthy: a state of well-being, free from illness or disease
Sick: a state of being unwell, experiencing illness, or having poor health
Example: Despite feeling sick for the past week, he was relieved to finally be healthy again after a few days of rest and medication.
Juicy: moist, succulent, or full of liquid
Dry: the absence of moisture or the state of being parched
Example: The grilled steak was so juicy and flavorful that it stood in stark contrast to the dry and bland chicken served at the neighboring table.
Large: something of considerable size, extensive dimensions, or great magnitude
Small: something of diminutive size or limited dimensions
Example: The elephant, with its large ears and massive body, stood next to a small mouse, highlighting the stark contrast between their sizes.
Laugh: expression of joy or amusement through sound
Cry: expression of sorrow or distress, often accompanied by tears
Example: The beginning of the movie was funny, so we laughed a lot, but when the sad part came, we cried.
Love: a deep affection and fondness for someone or something
Hate: a strong aversion or intense dislike.
Example: She loves playing with her puppy, but she hates getting stuck in traffic on the way to work.
Negative: denial or disagreement
Positive: affirmation or agreement
Example: He had a negative reaction to the idea at first, but after learning more, he became positive and excited about the plan.
Old: being advanced in age
Young: being in the early stage of life
Example: The old grandmother sat in her rocking chair, reminiscing about her youth and sharing stories with her young grandchildren.
Pass: to succeed or meet a standard
Fail: to not meet the required criteria or fall short of expectations
Example: Amy studied hard and passed the exam, but Peter, who didn’t study at all, failed the exam.
Push: the act of applying force to move something away,
Pull: the act of applying force to draw something closer
Example: To open the heavy door, she had to push it with all her strength, and once inside, she used a gentle pull to close it securely behind her.
Rich: having abundant wealth or resources
Poor: a lack of financial means or resources
Example: She grew up in a poor neighborhood but worked hard and eventually became rich.
Safe: free from harm or risk
Dangerous: posing a threat or involving risk
Example: The lifeguard ensured that the swimming area was safe for the children, warning them about how it can be dangerous to swim further out in the ocean.
True: in accordance with fact or reality
False: not in accordance with fact or reality
Example: The detective carefully distinguished between the true statements and the false alibis during the investigation.
Up: a direction toward a higher position
Down: a direction toward a lower position
Example: The cat climbed up the tree to chase a bird but then hesitated to come down when it realized how high it had climbed.
Visible: something that can be seen or is within sight
Invisible: something that cannot be seen with the naked eye
Example: The moon is visible in the night sky, but the wind is invisible even though we can feel it.
Opposite Words List
This is a handy opposite words list you can study while commuting on a bus or subway.
Opposite Words FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about antonyms and opposite words.
What are antonyms?
Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings. If one word represents a particular idea, its antonym will represent the opposite idea. For example, “hot” and “cold” are antonyms because they express opposite temperatures.
What are 20 opposite words in English?
Here’s a list of 20 pairs of opposite words:
- Up – Down
- Happy – Sad
- Big – Small
- Fast – Slow
- Old – Young
- Hot – Cold
- Rich – Poor
- Light – Dark
- Loud – Quiet
- High – Low
- Empty – Full
- Day – Night
- Thick – Thin
- Hard – Soft
- Near – Far
- Clean – Dirty
- Love – Hate
- True – False
- Simple – Complicated
- Inside – Outside
Why are some words their own opposites?
Words that are their own opposites are known as contronyms or auto-antonyms. This linguistic phenomenon occurs when a single word has contradictory meanings, often due to historical changes in language usage or context. The opposite meanings arise from different senses or usages of the word.
Cleave: It can mean both to adhere closely OR to split apart.
- Example: He used a special glue to cleave two pieces of paper together, but later, he had to carefully cleave them apart with a knife.
Sanction: It can mean both to give official approval OR to impose a penalty.
- Example: The principal will sanction the school event, giving official approval, but if students break the rules, he might have to sanction them with a penalty.
Dust: It can mean both to remove particles (cleaning) or to sprinkle particles (applying powder).
- Example: She dusted the furniture to make it shine, then dusted the cake with powdered sugar.
What is the opposite word of tall?
The opposite word of tall is short.
What is the opposite word of sweet?
The opposite of sweet is sour.
What is the opposite of deep?
The opposite of deep is shallow.
What is the opposite word of heavy?
The opposite word of heavy is light.
What is the opposite word of beautiful?
The antonym of beautiful is ugly.
More English Vocabulary
If you are looking for a broader list of English vocabulary to study, check out these topics:
- Common Electronic Devices
- Wild Animals List
- Computer Parts Names
- Positive Character Traits
- Kinds of Doctors in English
Easy Antonym Quiz
Antonyms and Opposite Words: Join the Conversation
Can you think of an opposite-word pair that should be added to our list? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!