Definition of Antonyms and Synonyms with the Difference

Definition of Antonyms and Synonyms with Differences – In questions about the Indonesian subject, questions are often encountered about antonyms and synonyms for words. Antonyms and synonyms of words are one of the mandatory materials that are always discussed by Indonesian teachers.

Material regarding antonyms and synonyms is included in the meaning relation. The relation of meaning is the semantic relationship that exists between one language unit and another. What is included in a language unit? The unit of language can be a word, phrase, or sentence.

Meaning 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, namely ‘another name for another thing too’.

Antonym is a semantic relationship between two units of speech that have opposite or opposite meanings to one another. In Indonesian language textbooks, it is often said that antonyms are opposites. Whereas it should be, what is opposite is not the words but the meaning of those words.

In short, antonyms are the opposite of meaning.

The relationship between two antonymic speech units is bidirectional. For example, buying antonyms with selling; the word dead antonyms with the word life. The relationship between the two utterances can be described through the following chart!

However, when analyzed further, is it true that the word die is opposite to the word life? Yes. Something that is alive is not yet or is not dead; Likewise, something that is dead is no longer alive. So, these two words are opposites.

Then, what about white words and black words? Are they completely opposite in meaning? Not necessarily, because there is a possibility of gray.


Now, let’s see what are the properties in this antonym relationship. Let’s listen!

1. Antonyms are absolute

Antonyms with absolute characteristics mean that the two utterances have absolutely opposite meanings or cannot be refuted. Example:

Off >< On

Why is the word dead antonym with the word alive? Because between life and death there is an absolute boundary. Something that is alive is certainly not (yet) dead; Likewise with something that dies then of course it is no longer alive.

Although in the world of medicine, there is the term “coma” which is a condition where a person who is not alive but also not dead. This is because the only thing that is still alive is the heartbeat.

Still >< Motion

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

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

2. Antonyms are relative

These relative antonyms can also be referred to as gradation antonyms (opposition). This is because there are still levels of meaning in the utterance unit. These levels of meaning do not have clear boundaries between one another, and therefore are called relative. Example:

Rich >< Poor

The terms rich and poor have a relative meaning. So far, the criteria or standards for rich and poor 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 that they are rich.

The level of meaning in the utterance unit appears as a gradation, such as the designation rather rich, quite rich, rich, and very rich. However, people who are very rich in another comparison series, could be the poorest.

Far >< Near

Far and near speech units are also included in relative antonyms. This is because no clear boundaries can be determined between the two speech units. Something that is near is not necessarily far, and something that is far is not necessarily close.

The level of meaning in the utterance unit is closer, very close, close, or closest. Similar to that, namely further, very far, far, or the most distant.

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 said to be small when compared to an elephant or rhino; but a goat can be called big when compared with a cat or a rabbit.

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

3. Antonyms are relational

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

Selling >< Buying

Even though the words sell and buy are contradictory in meaning, in the process they occur simultaneously. The selling process can occur simultaneously with the buying process, therefore the phrase buying and selling is often encountered. If there is no selling process then 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 no longer a husband or wife, but becomes a widower or widow.

Other examples of relational antonyms (relationships) are back and forth, commuting, giving and receiving, father-mother, teacher-student, north-south, and so on.

4. Antonyms are hierarchical

These hierarchical antonyms express a series of levels or levels in one speech unit with another. Therefore, speech units with hierarchical antonyms are in the form of unit names of measurement (weight, length, and content), names of units of calculation and decapitation, names of rank levels (positions), and so on. Example!

Meters >< Kilometers

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

Enlisted >< NCO

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

5. Antonyms are plural

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

For example, the word stand can have antonyms in the form of the word sit, lie down, lie down, squat, and cross-legged. These antonyms are commonly found in Indonesian. Another example is the word silence which has antonyms with the words speak, work, and move. Look at the following chart to understand better!

Types of Antonyms

1. Binary Antonyms and Non Binary Antonyms

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

Dead >< Alive
Male >< Male
Female >< Female

Meanwhile, non-binary antonyms are meaning contradictions with more than two words. In non-binary antonyms, they have cyclic or repeated properties with the same pattern. For example, the word cold is an antonym for the word hot, as long as the scale still allows for other words, such as warm and cool. When made in a scale drawing then as follows,

Hot – Warm – Cool – Cold

In non-binary antonyms, the resistance in the meaning of one of its members is not absolute. If it says that the water is not hot then it means the water is cold. However, if you say the water isn’t cold, it doesn’t mean the water is hot, it could just be warm.

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

The names of the months in a time-calculation calendar are also considered as antonymic pairs whose resistance is non-binary. Between January and December, there are still other word members, namely February, March, April, and so on.

2. Graded Antonyms and Ungraded Antonyms

Graded antonyms are tiered or graded resistance of meaning. This is related to the relative characteristics possessed by the speech unit. The word hot is usually an antonym with the word cold, even though there may be an antonym in the form of hotter or colder. To understand it better, consider the following sentences!

This water is colder than the water in the jug.


Meanwhile, non-graded antonyms are non-leveled or tiered resistance. The words grandmother and grandfather, father and mother, become non-grade antonym types because they do not have relative properties. Let’s think about it, are there pairs in the form of more grandmothers and more grandfathers, more fathers and more mothers, and so on?

2. Orthogonal Antonyms and Antipodal Antonyms

Orthogonal antonyms are oppositions in meaning whose opposition is not diametrical. According to KBBI, diametral means like diameter; divided in two (by a 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 that it can be said that according to orthogonal antonyms, the word north has antonyms with northeast, east, southeast, southwest, west, and northwest.

Meanwhile, antipodal antonym is a resistance of meaning whose opposition is diametrical. 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.

3. Directional Antonyms and Relational Antonyms

Directional antonyms are opposites of meaning whose opposition is determined based on the movement away from or approaching a place. According to KBBI, directionality is related to direction.

Examples are the words coming and going, here and there, coming and going. Each pair of antonyms is directional or related to direction. The words go home, come here, and come can be a gesture towards the speaker; whereas going and going there can be a movement away from the speaker.
Meanwhile, relational antonyms are opposite meanings.


Definition of synonyms

The word synonym comes from Ancient Greek, namely ‘onoma’ which means ‘name’; and ‘syn’ which means ‘with’. Then it can be translated literally into ‘another name for the same object or thing’.

Synonym is a semantic relationship that states that there is a similarity in meaning between one unit of speech and another unit of speech. The relationship of meaning between the two units of speech is two-way. That is, if A is synonymous with B, then B is also synonymous with A. For example, the word flower is synonymous with flower, then flower is also synonymous with flower.

However, there are several pairs of synonyms whose meaning will not be exactly the same. There is no absolute in an Indonesian synonym.

Factors Affecting Synonyms

Previously it was explained that there are synonymous pairs whose meanings between the two will not be exactly the same. Why can this happen?

1. Time Factor

For example, the word hulubalang has the equivalent meaning of the word commander. However, the word hulubalang has a classical meaning; while the word commander has no classical meaning.

So that the two cannot be used interchangeably because the word hulubalang is more suitable to be used in the context of ancient situations, while the word commander is only suitable to be used in the context of modern situations.

2. Place or Region Factors

For example, say me and beta. These word pairs are indeed synonymous forms, but if analyzed based on the suitability of the context in which they are located, they will be different.

The word I can be used in all parts of Indonesia, while the word beta is suitable for use in eastern Indonesia, or maybe in the context of a conversation where the other person is an eastern Indonesian.

3. Formality Factors

For example, the word money is synonymous with the word money. However, the word money is more suitable for use in a variety of formal or official conversations, while the word money is more suitable for use in a variety of informal or casual conversations.

4. Social Factors

The word I has the equivalent meaning of the word I. However, the word I is suitable for use in a variety of conversations by anyone and to anyone.

Meanwhile, the word I is more suitable for use in a variety of conversations where the interlocutor is a peer, someone who is considered close, or to someone younger.

5. Factors Field of Activity

The word sun has the same meaning as the sun. However, the use of the word sun is more suitable for any activity or general activity; while the word Surya is more suitable for use in special activities, for example in literary activities.

6. Nuances of Meaning Factors

The words see, glance, watch, and peek have the same meaning, namely the activity of paying attention to something using the sense of sight. However, between one speech unit and another speech unit cannot be simply exchanged because each has its own nuances of meaning.

The word see has the meaning of paying attention to something with both eyes; the word glance has the meaning of paying attention to something from the corner of the eye; the word watch has the meaning of watching something remotely or through a tool; while the word peek has the meaning of watching something secretly through a hole.