Definition of Antonyms and Synonyms and the Differences

In the matter of Indonesian subjects, questions are often found regarding antonyms and synonyms of words. Antonyms and synonyms of words become one of the mandatory materials that are always discussed by Indonesian language teachers.

The material about antonyms and synonyms is included in the meaning relation. Meaning relations are semantic relationships that exist between one language unit and another. What is included in the unit of language? The unit of language can be in the form of words, phrases, or sentences.

Definition of Antonym

The word ‘antonym’ comes from Ancient Greek, namely ‘onoma’ which means ‘meaning’; and ‘anti’ which means ‘against’. So that it can be interpreted literally as ‘another name for another thing’.

Antonyms are semantic relationships between two speech units that have opposite or opposite meanings to each other. In Indonesian textbooks, it is often said that antonyms are opposite words. When it should be, the opposite is not the words but the meaning of the words.

In short, antonyms are the opposite of meaning.

The relationship between two antonymous speech units is two-way. For example, buying is antonymized with selling; The word dead is an antonym to the word alive. The relationship between the two utterances can be described in the following chart!

However, if analyzed further, is it true that the word dead is the opposite of the word alive? Yes. Something that is alive is not or is not dead; Likewise, something that is dead is no longer alive. So, the two words are contradictory.

Then, what about the white word and black word? Are they really opposite in meaning? Not necessarily, because there is a possibility of a gray color.
Antonym of

Now, let’s see what are the characteristics of this antonym relationship. Let’s see!

1. Antonyms are absolute

An antonym with absolute nature means that the two speech units have meanings that are absolutely opposite to each other or cannot be denied. Example:

Off >< On

Why is the word dead antonymous with the word alive? Because between life and death there is an absolute limit. Something that is alive is not (yet) dead; as well as something that dies then it is certainly not alive anymore.

Although in the medical world, there is the term “coma” which is a condition in which a person is not alive but also not dead. This is because the only thing that is still alive is the beating of his heart.

Silent >< Motion

According to the KBBI, motion has the meaning of ‘change of place or position either only once or many times’. While silence has the meaning of not moving or remaining in place.

Something that moves must not be at rest; and something that is at rest is certainly not in motion. Both have processes that cannot be carried out simultaneously, but alternately.

2. Antonyms are relative

This relative antonym can also be referred to as a gradation antonym (opposite). This is because there is still a level of meaning in the speech unit. The level of meaning does not have a clear boundary between one another, therefore it is called relative. Example:

Rich >< Poor

The terms rich and poor have relative meanings. The criteria or standards for rich and poor so far do not have clear boundaries. People who are not rich do not necessarily feel poor. Likewise, people who are not poor do not necessarily feel themselves rich.

The level of meaning in the utterance unit looks like a gradation, such as the terms somewhat rich, moderately rich, rich, and very rich. However, people who are very rich in another series of comparisons, may be the poorest.

Far >< Near

Far and near speech units are also included in relative antonyms. This is because there is no clear boundary between the two speech units. What is near is not necessarily far, and something far is not necessarily near.

The level of meaning in the speech unit is closer, very close, close, or closest. It is similar to that, which is further, very far, far, or farthest.

Big >< Small

An object is said to be big or small in this life because it is compared to something else. A goat can be called small when compared to an elephant or a rhinoceros; but a goat can be called big when compared to a cat or a rabbit.

Likewise, cats can be called large when compared to frogs or mice; but a cat can also be called small when compared to a cow or a donkey.

3. Antonyms are relational

The meaning of speech units that have a relational nature (relationship) is complementary. That is, the presence of one word with another word will be a relationship. Example!

Selling >< Buying

The words sell and buy, even though they are contradictory in meaning, but in the process they occur simultaneously. The process of selling can occur simultaneously with the process of buying, therefore, the phrase buying and selling is often encountered. If there is no selling process, there will also be no buying process.

Husband >< Wife

A man can be called a husband if he has a wife; and vice versa, a woman can be called a wife if she has a husband. If one of them dies, then he is not a husband or wife anymore, but becomes a widower or widow.

Other examples of relational antonyms (relationships) are back-and-forth, round-trip, give-and-take, father-mother, teacher-student, north-south, and so on.

4. Antonyms are hierarchical

This hierarchical antonym expresses a series of levels or levels in one speech unit with another. Therefore, this hierarchical antonym of speech unit is in the form of the name of the unit of measure (weight, length, and content), the name of the unit of count and beheading, the name of the rank level (position), and so on. Example!

Meters >< Kilometers

The word meter has an antonym pair with the word kilometer because it is in a series of unit names that express length.

Enlisted >< NCO

The word enlisted has an antonym pair with a non-commissioned officer because both are in a row of unit names that state the level of rank (position).

5. Antonyms are Compound

In Indonesian, there are also speech units that have more than one antonym pair called compound antonyms. This can happen because in the Indonesian vocabulary, there are words that have opposition or meaning resistance to more than one word.

For example, the word standing can have antonyms in the form of sitting, lying down, lying down, squatting, and cross-legged. These antonyms are commonly found in Indonesian. Another example is the word silent which has antonyms with the words talk, work, and move. Take a look at the following chart to understand better!

Types of Antonyms

1. Binary Antonyms and Non-Binary Antonyms

Binary antonym (binary opposition) is the resistance of meaning between two words only, nothing more. In binary antonyms, its existence is absolute or cannot be denied. According to Lyons (in Wijana, 2008) binary antonyms are also called complementary antonyms because of their complementary properties. Example:

Dead >< Alive
Male ><Female

Meanwhile, non-binary antonyms are contradicting meanings with more than two words. In non-binary antonyms, they have cycles or repeats in the same pattern. For example, the word cold is an antonym to the word hot, as long as the scale allows for other words, such as warm and cool. When made in a scale description then as follows,

Hot – Warm – Cool – Cold

In non-binary antonyms, the meaning of one of the members is not absolute. If it is said that this water is not hot then it means that the water is cold. However, if it says the water is not cold, it does not mean the water is hot, it could be warm.

Another example is the words past and present, there are still a number of words that can be inserted including just now, earlier, yesterday, the other day, and others.

The names of the months in a timekeeping calendar are also considered as antonym pairs whose opposites are non-binary. Between the January and December ranges, there are still other words, including February, March, April, and so on.

2. Graded Antonyms and Ungraded Antonyms

A graded antonym is a tiered or stratified resistance of meaning. This relates to the relative characteristics possessed by the speech unit. The word hot is usually an antonym to the word cold, even though it is possible that there are antonyms in the form of hotter or colder. To better understand it, consider the following sentence!

This water is colder than the water in the jug.

Meanwhile, ungraded antonyms are ungraded or ungraded resistance. The words grandmother and grandfather, father and mother, are not graded antonyms because they do not have relative characteristics. Come on let’s think, is there a partner in the form of more grandma and more grandpa, more father and more mother, and so on?

1. Orthogonal Antonyms and Antipodal Antonyms

Orthogonal antonyms are opposite meanings whose opposition is not diametrical. According to the KBBI, diametral means like diameter; divided in half (by dividing line); separately face to face (KBBI V).

For example, the word north has antonyms that are orthogonal to all cardinal directions, except south. So it can be said that according to orthogonal antonyms, the word north has antonyms with northeast, east, southeast, southwest, west, and northwest.

Meanwhile, antipodal antonyms are meanings whose opposites are diametrically opposed. Therefore, when analyzed using the same example as before, the word north has an antonym with south. Likewise with northeast which has antonyms with southwest, east with west, and southeast with northwest.

2. Directional Antonyms and Relational Antonyms

Directional antonyms are oppositions of meaning whose opposition is determined by the presence of motion away from or approaching a place. According to the KBBI, directional relates to direction.

Examples are the words go home and go, here and there, come and go. The pairs of antonyms are each directional or with respect to direction. The words go home, come here, and come can be a gesture towards the speaker; while going and going there can be a movement away from the speaker.
Meanwhile, relational antonyms are opposite meanings.