You can discover one of the best kept secrets of today’s successful writers by using a dictionary of opposite words, sometimes called an antonym dictionary or antonym finder. This great resource holds the key to finding the vocabulary you need when you need it.
Purpose of a Dictionary of Opposite Words
Many times, we want to express contrasting or contradictory ideas when we are writing but cannot find the right words. So, for example, you may be drafting the phrase, “They were no longer prosperous times but they were …” Hesitation. Pause. Hmm. Not prosperous times? What kind of times were they? What is the term that best contrasts prosperous? They were not prosperous times. There were destitute…or…lean…or poor…unpropitious…or languishing. You are seeking an antonym.
The word “antonym” comes from the Greek and can be broken down into “anti” meaning opposite and “onym” meaning name. So an antonym is a word that has the opposite meaning of another word. Since language is complex, and there can be many words that have similar meanings, sometimes an antonym is not exactly the opposite in meaning.
You may be interested to know that there are three kinds of antonyms. Let’s look at the explanation of these along with some examples:
- Complementary: When looking at complementary antonyms, there is no middle ground. Examples of these are: boy and girl, off and on, night and day, entrance and exit, exterior and interior, true and false, dead and alive, push and pull, and pass and fail.
- Relational: These are kind of like complementary antonyms, except that both must exist for them to be antonyms of each other. Check out these examples: above and below, doctor and patient, husband and wife, servant and master, borrow and lend, give and receive, predator and prey, buy and sell, and instructor and pupil.
- Graded: These antonyms deal with levels of comparison and they can be two words on a scale. Many are relative terms, which can be interpreted differently by different people. Examples are: young and old, hard and soft, happy and sad, wise and foolish, fat and skinny, warm and cool, early and late, fast and slow, and dark and light.
Making an Antonym
Sometimes you can make an antonym very simply by adding a prefix, like “un”, “non”, “in”, or “il.” Here are some examples:
- Un - unfortunate, unlikely, unfair, unable, unforgiving, unhealthy, unfit, untie, untidy, unused, unwise, unequal, unclean, unaware, uncertain, uncommon
- Non - nonconformist, nonentity, nonpayment, noncombatant, nonfiction, nonabrasive, nonstop, nonsense, nonfat, nonprofit
- In - indecent, intolerant, indiscreet, inexcusable, inhuman, inoperative, insane, indefinite, infinite, indescribable, incorrigible, inedible, inexpensive, inefficient
- Il - illiterate, illegal, illegible, illegitimate
Antonym Dictionaries Online
- This online opposite word finder is the closest to a true dictionary of antonyms. Simply enter a word, and then with a click of a button, the antonym appears.
- Although created for children, even grown-ups can use this tool! Much like the other resources, this quick and easy-to-use dictionary offers a simple format and easy-to-understand vocabulary items.
- This site distinguishes itself because of how it uses context in offering its selection of vocabulary. When you enter the term, you not only receive a list of its opposites but the contexts in which those terms are most effectively used. This is a great tool for second language learners as well as native speakers.
If you are a parent seeking to boost your child’s writing skills as well as your own, YourDictionary has a range of language arts lessons and resources to understand the use of antonyms in writing. Young and old authors alike can benefit from using opposite words.
Antonyms help create prose that sparkles by offering sharp and illuminating contrasts. A dictionary of opposite words, also known as an antonym finder, is an essential tool of the successful writer.