Encyclopedia > Antonym

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Antonyms are word pairs that are opposite in meaning, such as hot and cold, fat and thin, and up and down. Words may have different antonyms, depending on the meaning. Both long and tall are antonyms of short.

Antonyms are of two types:

  • gradable antonyms are pairs that express relationships in a continuum, such as up and down
  • complementary antonyms are pairs that express an either/or relationship, such as dead or alive.

Although the word antonym was only coined by philologists in the 19th century, such relationships are a fundamental part of the language, in contrast to synonyms, which are a result of history and drawing of fine distinctions, or homonyms, which are mostly etymological accidents or coincidences.

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