Antithesis Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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Today we’ll learn about the art of contrasting ideas; antithesis is a popular word used when describing opposites; it’s a commonly used literary device in the English language. 

If you’re itching to learn more about antithesis, keep reading. We have all the necessary information below on your word of the day. 

What Is the Definition of Antithesis? 

Antithesis is the opposite of a person or thing; it’s a figure of speech and a commonly used literary device in the English language. 

Antithesis is another way to claim two things are direct opposites or exact opposites. It can also be a rhetorical device showing a contrast of ideas by using parallel grammatical arrangements (we’ll talk more about these later.)

If you learned about the Hegelian dialectic in school, then chances are you’re familiar (or have at least heard) this word once or twice. The Hegelian dialectic is when the idea presented in an argument is countered with the opposing idea. Then, the two are reconciled in the synthesis. You need a thesis to have an antithesis, or else you would have nothing to compare it to. 

Chances are you’ve heard or seen antithesis before without even realizing it. For example, did you know the famous John F. Kennedy quote, explaining how U.S. citizens should stop asking for their country to better them, but how they could better their country is the perfect example of an antithesis? That’s right — and if you look closely at the quote, we bet you’ll see how. This famous sentence exemplifies the resounding effect and is a tool many writers, speakers, and poets use. 

Antithesis is used in tons of famous literature including “Paradise Lost” by John Milton, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches, Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech,The Gettysburg Address,”,” A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, and “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare.  

Parallel Grammatical Structure 

Before we get into the depths of what antithesis means, we want to break down everything we just covered. We explained that antithesis is used as a literary device since it’s a great way to mirror opposing ideas by using parallel grammatical structuring — but what is parallel grammatical structuring? Let us explain!

Essentially parallel sentence structuring is a tool to show the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas. The parallelism effect can help readability while making the text easier to process. It can be challenging to introduce the contrast of ideas without completely confusing the reader. This literary tool makes it much easier for the writer to portray his or her idea to the reader so they can understand the objective and message behind the text. 

What Is the Origin of Antithesis? 

Wondering what the etymology of antithesis is? You’re in luck, we have tons of information about its origin below. 

Antithesis is a noun and is derived from a late Latin and Greek root meaning “setting opposites,” “opposition,” or “set against.” It has always been used to describe two terms, ideas, clauses, or sentences that contrast while remaining within a balanced grammatical structure.

Writers as old as Aristotle have utilized this traditional pattern to help enhance their written and verbal communication — Aristotle claimed antithesis helps the audience better understand the objective the speaker is trying to make. 

How Can You Use Antithesis? 

An antithesis is a commonly used literary tool and is commonly utilized in speeches or music. It can be tricky to think up a solid antithesis on your own, but that’s what makes a good writer a great one — processing the ability to bring both (or all) their ideas together at the end of their story. 

A great storyteller must find a way to bring all the working parts of their piece together in the story’s final stages. The objective and message must be clear making the rest of the text seem very concise and well thought-out. 

Reading speeches or stories known for their impressive antitheseis is a great way to gain more knowledge on this topic and will make the task of thinking of your own that much easier!

Examples of Antithesis 

Sometimes the easiest way to learn about a new word is by analyzing its use in sentences. 

Remember, antithesis is a word that can be used in a sentence to describe the opposite of something, but it can also be a literary device to enhance readability. We’re going to give you example sentences in both forms. 

Love is a desired thing, but a marriage is a real thing. 

He’s easy on the eyes but hard on my heart.

It’s never too early, and never too late.

This is one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind.

Many are called, but few are chosen.

Go big or go home.

Spicy food feels like heaven on your tongue, but hell in the tummy.

Those who can do; those who can’t do, teach.

Get busy living or get busy dying.

Speech is silver, but silence is golden.

No pain, no gain.

It’s not a show, friends; it’s show business.

No guts, no glory.

If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

Slavery is the antithesis of freedom. 

His character is the antithesis of Jamie’s attitude.  

Her attitude was an antithesis of mine. 

In Conclusion 

Reading and learning about a word is the first step to becoming a master of its use. Even though formulating a great antithesis on your own isn’t the easiest task, practice makes perfect — you won’t ever succeed if you don’t try. 


Parallel Structure | Ever Green 

Hegelian Dialectic Definition and Meaning | Collins English Dictionary

Antithesis Definition & Meaning |