Enter your search term

Search by title or post keyword

Antithesis: Definition, How It Works & Examples In Writing

Level up your digital marketing skills with our free courses, expert insights, forums, and social groups!

Check it Out

Antithesis is one of the most common literary devices.

It uses two opposite ideas to highlight their differences.

Antithesis works by juxtaposing two conflicting ideas and helping the reader to see the difference between them.

In this article, we will explore antithesis, how it works, and some examples of it in literature.

We will also provide tips on how to use antithesis in your writing.

What Is Antithesis?

Antithesis is a figure of speech that juxtaposes two contrasting or opposing ideas, usually within the same sentence.

Antithesis emphasizes the idea of contrast by parallel structure.

Parallel structure is when you use the same grammatical form to express two or more ideas.

Also Known As:

  • Opposite
  • Contrary
  • Counterpoint

Simple Definition: How To Explain an Antithesis to a Child

An example of antithesis is the following sentence: “I didn’t do it on purpose. It was an accident.”

In this sentence, one idea is that the person did something on purpose.

The second idea brings in the concept of it being an accident.

The antithesis here is emphasizing the contrast between those two concepts.

Why Is Antithesis Used?

When writing a great blog post, you can use antithesis to make your writing more intriguing.

Used by many types of writers, the literary device helps to create an interesting balance between two opposite ideas.

Types of Antithesis

Here are some examples of different types of antithesis:

  • Antithesis in Literature: Antithesis is often used within the area of literature. William Shakespeare famously used antithesis in his plays. In Romeo and Juliet, he wrote, “Love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.” The antithesis between love and tempest emphasizes the strength of love.
  • Antithesis in Writing: You will find antithesis found in writing. In the novel, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses antithesis when Holden Caulfield says, “All morons hate it when you call them a moron.”  
  • Antithesis in Speeches: Many speeches contain antithesis. John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address is full of antithesis. He says, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” The antithesis here sets up a balance between the individual and the country.
  • Antithesis in Poetry: You will find antithesis in poetry as well. In Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” he writes, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by.” The antithesis here is between the two roads. While most people traveled one road, Frost takes the less traveled road.

How Do You Identify Antithesis?

Now that you know what antithesis is and why it’s used, let’s look at how you can identify it.

When you’re reading, pay attention to when an author mentions two opposite ideas together.

If they exist in the same sentence or exist close to each other, you are likely seeing an example of antithesis.

How Do You Use Antithesis in a Sentence?

Antithesis can serve multiple functions in your writing.

The most common way to use antithesis is to create a balance between two concepts.

For example, you could say, “I’m not always early. Sometimes, I’m late.”

In this sentence, the antithesis is between being early and being late.

Another way to use antithesis in a sentence is to say, “She’s pretty, but she’s not very smart.”

The sentence juxtaposes pretty and smart.

Here’s a third example: “His apartment was small, but it was very clean.” The antithesis in this sentence is between small and clean.

You can also use the word antithesis for effect.

For example, if you wanted to emphasize how big something was, you could say, “That elephant is huge! He’s the antithesis of small.”

Or, you might say, “She’s the antithesis of a good friend.”

Here, you’re emphasizing that this person isn’t much of a friend.

What Is the Most Popular Example of Antithesis?

One of the most popular examples of antithesis exists in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

In Act III, Scene ii, Brutus says, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.”

The antithesis here is between loving Caesar and loving Rome.

Brutus loves them both, but he loves Rome more.

Another instance is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

He says, “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.”

The antithesis here is between judging people by the color of their skin and judging them by their character.

Other Famous Examples of Antithesis

As a blogger, you can use antithesis to come up with topics to get past writer’s block.

Here are three more ways you can use this literary device to create different content types.

Big vs. Home

The famous saying, “go big or go home,” compares two different ideas.

The first idea is about playing large or winning in a big way.

To “go home” reflects the idea that someone gave up and didn’t put forth their best effort.

An antithesis is a figure of speech. You aren’t always using it in a literal manner.

Speech vs. Silence

Have you ever heard this saying: “Speech is silver but silence is gold?”

The antithesis in this sentence compares two different things that have value.

In this case, it’s speech and silence. It’s saying that while speech has some value, silence is more valuable.

Fame vs. Infamy

You may be familiar with the saying, “fame is fleeting but infamy is forever.”

This antithesis compares two different things that can happen to a person’s reputation.

Fame is temporary. Infamy is permanent.

Other Modern Examples of Antithesis

Let’s look at a few additional examples of antithesis.

Try using some of these examples to add contrast to your writing:

  • I am not just a writer. I am also a reader. In this sentence, the author says that they are both a writer and a reader. The antithesis here is between writing and reading.  
  • This car is not just fast. It’s also safe. Fast and safe aren’t ideas that most people think about at the same time. In a sentence like this, you can use the antithesis technique to combine them.
  • He is not just rich. He’s also famous. In this case, you are contrasting the concepts of being rich and being famous.
  • The novel is not just sad. It’s also funny. If you want to write a novel that makes people cry and laugh, you can use antithesis in your description.
  • The room was dark, but he could see the intruder perfectly. In this sentence, the antithesis is between dark and light. The darkness represents something that would normally make it difficult to see.
  • That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. This famous quote from Neil Armstrong uses antithesis to compare the small step that he took to the giant leap that mankind took.
  • A moment on the lips; a lifetime on the hips. Here is an antithesis example that compares the short-term pleasure of eating something sweet to the long-term consequences of gaining weight.
  • No guts, no glory. This antithesis compares having guts or courage to the idea of glory. It’s saying that you can’t have one without the other.
  • If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. With this antithesis, the person who formed the famous saying helps people to compare the act of planning to the act of failing. The idea is that if you don’t plan, then you might as well plan to fail.

Notable Writers Who Used Antithesis

Many writers have used antithesis to create riveting passages.

Here are three examples and explain how they used this literary device.

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare is one of the most famous authors in history. He used antithesis to create contrast in many of his plays.

In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo says, “But, soft! What light through the yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” Here, he uses antithesis to contrast the light and the darkness.

Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat and other famous books.

He used antithesis to create contrast in many of his stories.

In The Cat in the Hat, the Cat says, “I can hold up two books! I can hold up the fish! But I know you do not want this old cat to stay. I will go away.”

In this quote, the antithesis reflects the contrast between staying and going.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain was a famous writer and humorist.

He used antithesis to create contrast in many of his stories.

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck says, “I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and civilize me, and I can’t stand it. I’ve been there before.”

In this quote, the antithesis reflects the contrast between civilization and the wilderness.

What Is the Opposite of Antithesis?

One way to explain the opposite of antithesis is to talk about equivalent ideas.

Since you don’t want to use antithesis as a literary device too often, it’s a good idea to add other ways that make your writing interesting.

Antithesis vs Equivalent

The key difference between antithesis and equivalent is that antithesis contains two completely different ideas while equivalent only contains one.

For example, the antithesis of “black” is “white.” The antithesis of “good” is “evil.”

But the equivalent of “black” is simply “darkness.” The equivalent of “good” is “morality.”

So, antithesis creates a complete contrast, while equivalent only creates a partial one.

Other Related Literary Devices To Know

As you can see, using antithesis helps you create contrasting ideas to make a point.

Now, we’ll look at examples of other literary devices to use.

  • Paradox: A paradox is a statement that seems to contradict itself but contains some truth.
  • Oxymoron: An oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines two contrasting ideas.
  • Irony: Irony is when something happens that is different from what you expected.
  • Juxtaposition: Juxtaposition is when you place two things side by side for comparison.
  • Diction: Diction is the choice of words you use in your writing.

Writing Tools To Help You Out

Practice makes perfect.

The more you write, the better writer you’ll become.

Research writing tips on how to improve your blog posts.

As well, utilizing writing tools can help you save time and money while creating content for your blog.

  • Writing Helpers: Writer helpers are tools that support writers with various tasks, making the writing process easier overall. Some writing helper services not only help edit your content but can also finish it for you, depending on what level of direction you provide them.
  • AI Writing Software: If you’re looking to save time when writing, AI software uses artificial intelligence to write some ideas for you.
  • Grammar Checkers: A grammar checker is a tool that can help prevent errors in your blog posts. Checking your grammar can help detect and fix errors before you share your content with the world.
  • Content Creators: Content creators are helpful tools that generate ideas for blog posts. A content creator will help you come up with topics if you’re stuck. It offers suggestions related to your niche.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have a few questions about antithesis?

Use the following answers to deepen your understanding of the concept.

What are synonyms for antithesis?

Antithesis, contradictory, contrast, antipode, inverse, counter, and contrary are synonyms.

If you get confused when trying to use the antithesis method, use these synonyms to help with your understanding.

Are day and night an antithesis?

Yes, day and night are an antithesis.

It fits the bill because the phrase compares two different ideas.

Wrapping Up

Antithesis is a rhetorical device that uses two opposite or contrasting ideas to highlight the difference between them.

You can use it in your writing to make a point. Or, in a speech to create an effect.

Antithesis can help make your argument more persuasive by providing a clearer contrast for your reader.

Leave a Comment