What is an antonym?

Read on to learn everything about antonyms, including lots of antonym examples and fun ways to find and remember them!

Jessica Milner

Author
Jessica Milner

Published
December 20, 2023

What is an antonym?

Read on to learn everything about antonyms, including lots of antonym examples and fun ways to find and remember them!

Jessica Milner

Author
Jessica Milner

Published
Dec 20, 2023

What is an antonym?

Read on to learn everything about antonyms, including lots of antonym examples and fun ways to find and remember them!

Jessica Milner

Author
Jessica Milner

Published
Dec 20, 2023

Key takeaways

  • Antonyms show us the opposites of words. Most words have an antonym – usually more than one!
  • There are no animal antonyms!
  • Search online for antonyms to help you find the perfect word for your writing

What is an antonym?

Simply put, antonyms are opposites.

It can be fun to play the ‘antonym definition game’. Say a word out loud and try to think of the word that has the polar opposite meaning to it. This can lead you to lots of antonym examples. Let’s try it! 

Night? … Day! 

Up? … Down! 

Beaver? … Yeah you got it, there is no opposite word to beaver – they are cute little guys we don’t hear enough about. We can’t have an opposite to them.

When you’re trying to think of the meaning of antonyms, it can help to think, ‘could I stick these two things on each side of a coin, and they’d clearly be the opposite of each other?’. Usually, if it isn’t clearly an opposite, it isn’t an antonym.

Up / Down – antonym!

Tall / Short – antonym!

Everything / Nothing – antonym!

Adult / Child – antonym!

Beaver / Flamingo – nope!

Glass / Carpet – nope!

Happy / Excited – nope!

Happy / Sad – antonym!

Antonyms are clearly defined opposites. When you picture the two antonyms in your head, they are 100% different from each other.

I often imagine some scales: I put the two possible antonyms on them, and if they level out – or weigh the same – chances are you have a true pair of antonyms!

Remember: there are no true animal antonyms, as ‘cat’ and ‘dog’ aren’t opposites. We often talk about them like they are, but they both have fur, are cute and cuddly and are alive – so they can’t be opposites.

Antonym meaning and definition

In summary, an antonym is a word that has an opposite meaning. You can have more than one antonym for each word.

Antonym examples

Let’s look at some antonym examples:

  • good/bad
  • wet/dry
  • hot/cold
  • dark/light
  • brave/coward
  • advantage/disadvantage
  • attack/defence
  • gentle/rough


Can you think of some more?

Explore antonyms with DoodleEnglish

DoodleEnglish is an interactive English app that’s filled with thousands of questions and games covering reading, grammar, spelling and more!

Created by our team of teachers, it creates each child a personalised work programme tailored to their needs, boosting their confidence a little every day. Try it free today!

try doodleenglish for free

Why do we use antonyms?

We use antonyms to make our writing have more of an impact. 

We can use antonyms as tools in our writing, and also when we speak.

Antonyms help us make our writing more descriptive, and learning them gives us a much larger vocabulary. 

Antonyms also help us develop and improve our word skills, showing us exactly what a word means and how, when and where to use it – by learning its opposite.

1. Descriptive writing

Finding the antonym of a word can help us when we are writing something descriptive. 

For example, if you want to describe entering a spooky forest at night time but you aren’t sure which words to use to describe it, you could use an antonym. 

Try thinking of a normal forest in the daytime and describing that first.

‘The forest was light, bright and inviting.’

Then the antonyms of these words:

‘The forest was dark, dim and foreboding.’

The forest sounds much more interesting (and spooky) when using antonyms!

 

2. Increase our vocabulary

When you learn all of the antonyms for a word, you might find that some are better for specific sentences than others. This means that your vocabulary is growing and you are learning to be a true wordsmith!

Synonyms and antonyms: what's the difference?

I wonder if any of you have already been on tenterhooks, bursting to ask the question that I am about to answer…

What exactly is the opposite of an antonym? It’s a synonym!

A synonym is a word or phrase that has exactly the same, or almost the same, meaning as another.

A good example of a synonym is happy / joyful

If you saw someone standing in the sunshine with a big ice cream and a pile of presents, with a big smile on their face, you could say either:

‘They are happy!’

‘They are joyful!’

Now imagine the opposite of this picture: it’s raining, there are no presents to be seen and the person has a big upside-down smile.

‘They are unhappy!’

‘They are sad!’

There you have your antonyms.

Usually, a word has many synonyms:

Happy, joyful, contented, content, cheery, merry, jovial, jolly, joking, jocular, gleeful, carefree, untroubled, delighted, smiling.

Remember, you can always Google search ‘synonym of…’ and the word you want to find more of.

Here’s a secret: authors and songwriters do this all the time, as it helps them find new words to keep their writing exciting!

When do children learn about antonyms?

Kids start to learn about antonyms in later KS2 so they can see how words are related in the context of antonyms and synonyms and begin to recognise them in written and spoken English.

Summary

Synonyms and antonyms are a lot of fun, especially when you start being able to match them in your head. DoodleEnglish is a great tool to learn lots of them quickly and for more difficult words!

Try DoodleEnglish for free!

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Jessica Milner

Jessica Milner

This decade is a super exciting one for EdTech, and I'm lucky enough to be right in the middle of it. I've used green screens as an English teacher in Vietnam, written children’s books that wow and motivate, been the head scriptwriter for a popular children's EdTech app and been an all-dancing-all-singing online teacher! I believe in making education inviting and accessible to all. My ethos is: we're all different and we all learn differently, so why not lay out a smorgasbord of educational treats and dig in!

Jessica Milner

Jessica Milner

This decade is a super exciting one for EdTech, and I'm lucky enough to be right in the middle of it. I've used green screens as an English teacher in Vietnam, written children’s books that wow and motivate, been the head scriptwriter for a popular children's EdTech app and been an all-dancing-all-singing online teacher! I believe in making education inviting and accessible to all. My ethos is: we're all different and we all learn differently, so why not lay out a smorgasbord of educational treats and dig in!

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