Antithesis: Definition, Examples & Application
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 5 min read


  1. What is Antithesis?
  2. How to Identify Antithesis
  3. Examples of Antithesis
  4. How to Use Antithesis
  5. Antithesis Application in Different Fields

Ever come across a pair of words or phrases that are complete opposites, yet they both make sense when placed together? That, my friend, is the magic of antithesis! Let's explore the tantalizing world of antithesis, from its definition to its usage in various fields. By the end of this blog, the term "antithesis" will have become your new best friend in the realm of rhetoric and beyond.

What is Antithesis?

Antithesis, originating from the Greek word 'antitithenai', meaning to oppose, is a powerful tool used in language to express contrasting ideas in a balanced manner. Now, let's break it down even further.

The Basic Definition

At its core, the definition of antithesis revolves around the concept of opposites. It refers to a person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else. A simple example would be the classic good versus evil scenario found in countless stories worldwide.

Antithesis as a Contrast or Opposition

Moving forward, antithesis also represents a contrast or opposition between two things. It's like comparing apples to oranges — both are fruits, but they're vastly different in taste, texture, and color.

Antithesis in Linguistics

Last but not least, in the world of linguistics, antithesis is a figure of speech where an opposition or contrast of ideas is expressed by parallelism of words that are the opposites of, or strongly contrasted with, each other. This might sound a bit tricky, but it's actually quite straightforward once you get the hang of it. An example of this would be the phrase "hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins". Notice how "hatred" is contrasted with "love", and "stirs up strife" with "covers all sins". That, in nutshell, is the definition of antithesis in linguistics.

How to Identify Antithesis

Now that we've nailed down the definition of antithesis, let's set our sights on how to spot it. Whether it's in a novel, a speech, or even in daily conversation, identifying antithesis can add a whole new layer of depth to your understanding. Let's dig in.

Look for Contrasting Ideas

First and foremost, keep an eye out for contrasting ideas. Remember, antithesis is all about opposites. So, if you see two ideas that seem to be polar opposites, you might just have found an instance of antithesis. For example, in the sentence "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," the contrasting ideas of "best" and "worst" signal the use of antithesis.

Spot the Parallel Structure

Next, look for parallel structure. When antithesis is used, the contrasting ideas are often presented in a similar grammatical structure to highlight the contrast. In the sentence "Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice", the parallel structure of "give every man thy…" and "but few thy…" helps emphasize the contrast between listening to everyone and speaking to only a few.

Listen for Opposing Pairs

Finally, pay attention to opposing pairs. Words or phrases that are commonly associated as opposites are often used together in antithesis. For instance, "To err is human; to forgive, divine" uses the opposing pair of "human" and "divine" to create a thought-provoking antithesis.

With these tips, you'll soon be spotting instances of antithesis left and right. Ready to dive in deeper? Let's go!

Examples of Antithesis

Alright, now that we are familiar with how to spot antithesis, let's explore some examples. By seeing antithesis in action, you'll get a better feel for how it works and why it's so powerful. Remember, these aren't just sentences — they're miniature masterpieces of contrast!


Authors love to use antithesis to add spice to their work. Take this line from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar": "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more." Here, the contrast between loving Caesar and loving Rome helps express the character's complex feelings.


Antithesis is a fantastic tool for making speeches more impactful. Consider the famous line from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." This is a beautiful example of antithesis, contrasting the concepts of color and character.

Everyday Language

Sometimes, we use antithesis without even realizing it. Ever heard the saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going"? That's antithesis! The contrast between the difficulty of the situation and the determination to persevere creates a memorable phrase.

These examples show the versatility and power of antithesis. Keep an eye out — you'll start noticing antithesis everywhere!

How to Use Antithesis

Now that we've seen some examples, let's talk about how you can use antithesis in your own writing or speech. It's not as hard as you might think!

Creating Contrast

Antithesis is all about creating contrast. Whether it's between ideas, characters, or themes, you want to highlight differences. For example, in the sentence, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," we see a clear contrast between the best and worst.

Emphasizing a Point

Antithesis can also bring attention to a particular point. If you're giving a speech and want to make your position clear, using antithesis can help. For instance, you might say, "I'd rather be poor and happy than rich and miserable."

Adding Rhythm

Lastly, antithesis adds a sort of rhythm to your language. It makes your sentences more memorable and catchy. Just think of the phrase, "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

And there you have it! With these tips in mind, you're ready to start using antithesis to add contrast, emphasis, and rhythm to your own writing or speaking endeavors. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don't be afraid to play around with this technique!

Antithesis Application in Different Fields

So, where can you apply this concept of antithesis? The answer is — quite a lot of places! Let's explore a few of these fields.

Writing and Speech

In written and spoken language, antithesis adds a punch to your message. Consider speeches by politicians, where contrasting ideas are used to highlight their stance. Or, think about the works of authors like Charles Dickens, whose novel "A Tale of Two Cities" opens with a string of antitheses to set the turbulent atmosphere of the French Revolution.

Visual Arts

Visual arts also make use of antithesis. An artist might use contrasting colors or shapes to create a balance or tension within a piece. For example, a painting might show a calm lake against a stormy sky, creating a striking visual antithesis.


In music, antithesis can be found in the contrast between loud and soft sounds, fast and slow tempos, or major and minor keys. These contrasts add depth and variety to a musical piece, keeping the listener engaged.


Finally, antithesis even has a place in the world of science. In physics, for instance, every action has an equal and opposite reaction — if that's not antithesis, what is?

From the arts to the sciences, the application of antithesis is wide and varied. So, next time you're writing a speech, creating a piece of art, composing a song, or even studying physics, remember the power of antithesis to create contrast and add depth to your work!

If you're intrigued by the concept of antithesis and want to explore more ways to enhance your creative writing, check out Joe Puxley's workshop, 'Cutting Out Comparison'. This workshop delves into the world of creative writing techniques and helps you improve your craft by exploring unique ways to bring out the best in your work.