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Antonyms (from ancient Greek αντί anti , German 'against' and ancient Greek ὄνομα ónoma , German 'name, word' ) are words with opposing meanings in linguistics . The expressions opposite word (or (shorter) opposite word ) and opposition word are used with the same meaning . Two words that are opposites for each other are called opposites . The relation existing between them is called antonymy , especially of words, but also of sentences and phrases. The corresponding rhetorical figure is the oxymoron .

The concept of antonymy can experience different expressions depending on the level and type of contrast. The content of the antonymy depends on how the opposite is to be understood in the logical sense, whether it is searched for within a generic term or whether there is a contradicting or contradicting relationship between the terms denoted by the pair of opposites. An expression that can stand for both concepts of a pair of opposites is called an opposition word .

Formation of antonyms

In the German language, antonyms are also often formed by placing the prefix un- formed: for example, rest - restlessness; clear - unclear, etc. However, there is no such automatic Antonympaare, for example, has about not overlooked dangerous ; as for inevitable no ausbleiblich in use. In addition, there are words with un- that do not form an antonym to the root word, for example courage and displeasure; pretty and unseemly.

Another aspect is that different oppositions of word pairs are not automatically transferable to others. Overpass and underpass (traffic routes) are antonyms, but transition and decline have no comparable meaning and contradiction, but mean something completely different, nothing directly opposing.

Types of antonyms

Different types of antonymy can be distinguished:

definition example
Gradual antonymy
or contrary antonymy (also scalar antonymy )
Two words are gradual antonym if they denote a contrast, but there are still gradations between the poles. The negation of one word of the word pair does not mean that the second word of the word pair applies. This type of antonymy is also called antonymy in the narrower sense . The words hot and cold are gradually antonym, because there are also gradations in between, e.g. B. cool , warm there. Adjectives that are related to one another by the gradual antonymy can be increased .
Incompatibility Two words related to the cohyponymy are incompatible. This type of antonymy is also called antonymy in the broader sense . The words poodle , dachshund and shepherd dog are hyponyms of the umbrella term dog . In the concrete context of the sentence, these three words are mutually exclusive. The statement Karlchen is a dachshund closes if it is true, the truth of the statement Karlchen is a poodle . The statement Karlchen is not a dachshund does not imply the statement Karlchen is a poodle (see below) .
or adversarial antonymy
Two words are complementary (in a certain context) if there is a contradiction in meaning between the words and at the same time the negation of one word means that the other word applies. If a person is not alive , it automatically follows that the person is dead .
Converse relation Two words are converse when they describe something from two different angles. The words mother and child both describe a relationship, but differ in terms of perspective. A is the mother of B. B is the child of A.
Reverse relation Two words are in a reversal relation to one another if they are incompatible, both words designate events , and the initial state of the first event designates the final state of the other event and vice versa. Example : loading and unloading , installation and removal .

Antonymy in the narrower and broader sense

Originally, one spoke of antonymy only in the sense of gradual or also contrary antonymy and used it to describe adjective pairs such as beautiful / ugly . Even today one sometimes speaks of antonymy only to denote a "contradiction in meaning (.) Between scalable lexical expressions". From a logical perspective, the gradual antonymy is given in the case of a contrary contrast (example: cold / hot ).

A special case of the gradual or contrary antonymy is the polar-contrary contrast, in which the opposing meanings are at the end of a scale (example: new / old ). “Non-polar antonyms indicate the same degree of expression on opposite scales; the formation of converse comparatives is excluded ”.

The term antonymy is often used in a broader sense, then generally designates a generic term for "semantic opposites" and then also includes the case of contradictory opposites , which in semantics is also referred to as complementary opposites (see below) (example: dead / alive ; meaningful / meaningless ).

The contradictory antonymy is also called "antonymy in the strict sense", while the contrary antonymy is also called "antonymy in the strict sense" or "occasionally" also as antonymy in the narrower sense. The terminology is therefore far from clear.

Contrary antonymy as incompatibility

Antonymy as a case of (contrary or contradictory) opposing meaning is a “special case” of incompatible meaning, that is, an incompatibility (of words, etc.).

If, as here, the incompatibility in the case of the hyponymy is viewed as an antonymy, the antonymy - detached from the word meaning - is equated with any incompatibility and at the same time the term incompatibility is used in a narrower than usual sense.

Auto antonyms

Auto-antonyms ( Antagonyme ) are words that can be used simultaneously in contrary meaning. So the word has two meanings ( homonymy , polysemy or homophony ) that form an antonymic opposition. In German this occurs, for example, with the expression shoal , which can be interpreted as very shallow depth or in colloquial language as very great depth . The same applies to expenses . The English overlook can mean both 'monitor' and 'disregard'. (Compare: overlooked has the two meanings overlooked and ignored : I do not yet overlook the situation. I have overlooked the letter.) Another example: transparent is used for transparent, revealed as well as invisible, concealing , especially if you have none Describes material property.

Homonymy and antonymy

Many words are homonyms ; i.e., they have several meanings . Homonymous words do not represent a meaning relationship. Only the expression side is identical, the content side has nothing to do with each other, not even historically.

Since the antonymy relation depends on the meaning, there are also several groups of antonyms in these cases. For example, the word decrease has antonyms in the meaning groups pass (goods), hang up (picture), uncover (tablecloth), hang up (telephone receiver), put on (jewelry), hang up (curtain), put on (hat), grow or let stand (Beard), gain (moon), gain (weight) and more. One speaks also of antonym fork. Their occurrence can also help identify hidden ambiguities.

  • Not all words that have multiple meanings have as many antonyms. Examples:
  • Pull in the sense of suction or attraction - antonyms: push or pressure;
  • Zug in the sense of railway train - no clear antonym available;
  • Move in the sense of chess or game move - no unambiguous antonym available;
  • Zug in the sense of a gesture - no clear antonym available.

See also


  • Dietrich Busse: Semantics . Paderborn: Fink, 2009.
  • Christiane Agricola, Erhard Agricola : Words and Opposites. German antonyms. Bibliographical Institute, Leipzig 1984 (especially the introduction)
  • Erich Bulitta , Hildegard Bulitta : Dictionary of synonyms and antonyms. Fischer, Frankfurt 2003, ISBN 3-596-15155-4 .
  • Wolfgang Müller: The dictionary of nouns. A contrasting dictionary with instructions for use. De Gruyter, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-11-014640-1 .
  • Horst Geckeler : Antonymy and part of speech. In: Edeltraud Bülow, Peter Schmitter (Ed.): Integrale Linguistik. Festschrift for Helmut Gipper. Amsterdam 1979, pp. 455-482.
  • Peter Rolf Lutzeier: Lexicology. Stauffenburg, Tübingen 1995, ISBN 3-86057-270-9 .
  • John Lyons: Semantics. Volume 1. Beck, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-406-05272-X (antonyms: pp. 281-300).
  • Věra Kloudová: Synonymy and antonymy. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2016, ISBN 978-3-8253-7534-8 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Antonym  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ pair of opposites . In: Duden - German Universal Dictionary , 5th edition. 2003, ISBN 3-411-05505-7 .
  2. Father: Reference Linguistics , 2005, p. 46.
  3. a b c antonymy . In: Bußmann: Lexicon of Linguistics , 3rd edition. 2002.
  4. ^ Meibauer: Introduction to German Linguistics , 2nd edition. 2007, p. 349; so also Lyons and Cruse; also probably Volker Harm: Introduction to Lexicology. WBG, Darmstadt 2015 (Introduction to German Studies), ISBN 978-3-534-26384-4 , p. 76.
  5. ^ Kürschner: Grammatical Compendium , 4th edition. 2003, ISBN 3-8252-1526-1 , p. 22.
  6. Paul Puppier: lexicon . In: André Martinet (Ed.): Linguistics . 1973, p. 136 (141).
  7. Kühn: Lexikologie , 1994, p. 54; Brandt / Dietrich / Schön: Linguistics , 2nd edition. 2006, p. 274.
  8. ^ Brandt / Dietrich / Schön: Linguistics , 2nd edition. 2006, p. 274.
  9. Lutzeier: The semantic structure of the lexicon . In: Schwarze, Wunderlich: Handbuch der Lexikologie . 1985, p. 103 (109).
  10. Schwarze, Wunderlich: Introduction . In: Schwarze, Wunderlich: Handbuch der Lexikologie . 1985, p. 7 (17).
  11. ^ Christiane and Erhard Agricola: Words and Opposites. German antonyms . VEB Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig, fourth unchanged edition 1982, publishing license No. 433 130/107/82, LSV 0817, p. 5ff
  12. ^ Christiane Wanzeck: Lexicology. Description of words and vocabulary in German. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2010 (UTB 3316), ISBN 978-3-8385-3316-2 , p. 67.