Studying Antonyms Study Guide

Updated on Jul 15, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Studying Antonyms Practice Exercises

Now that we've explored synonyms, or words that mean about the same thing, let's take a look at antonyms—words that have opposite meanings. They're helpful to know because you don't want to use one when you mean the other—that can cause terrible confusion, even chaos. Just think about the simple antonyms yes and no. There's a huge difference between them and what they mean. If someone asks if you want to spend your summer vacation with your Aunt Ethel and Uncle Morris cleaning out their attic, your answer will most likely be "No!" If you're asked if you'd rather spend your vacation backpacking through Europe with your best friends, your answer's probably going to be "Yes!" Just imagine what would ensue if you got those two reversed!

If you want to be truly picky and precise, antonyms come in three forms: gradable, complementary, and converse. Gradable antonyms are those that can be measured, like hot/cold or dry/wet. Complementary ones describe a matter of being, like male/female or alive/dead. Converse antonyms depend on one another, like buy/sell or borrow/lend. You have to have the one word in order to have its antonym.

The words in this day's lesson are great antonyms to know, so enjoy!


  • anomaly   an irregularity or difference, not following the general rule
  • benign   kind, compassionate, or gentle

[In the medical world, this is a happy word—it means harmless, the kind of note you want to see on your medical records.]

  • cursory   quick or superficial
  • decorum   dignity or good manners/behavior, etiquette; the condition of being calm
  • effusive   unrestrained in expressing feelings or emotions
  • incarcerate   to imprison or confine
  • jocund   merry or jolly
  • laconic   terse, to the point, using few words
  • malevolent   harmful, evil, wanting to cause harm

[Remember the mean sorceress in Sleeping Beauty? Her name was Maleficent. Coincidence? Methinks not.]

  • maudlin   weak and overly sentimental
  • ostensible   shown outwardly, genuine on the surface but open for doubt
  • placate   to calm the anger of bitterness of; to make someone less angry
  • plethora   a lot of, many, an excessive amount of something
  • recalcitrant   stubbornly refusing to give in to authority; hard to do or handle
  • reprehensible   worthy of or deserving blame, extremely guilty or at fault
  • sporadic   occurring now and then; random or intermittent
  • succinct   short and concise, without wasted words, brief and to the point
  • truculent   ready and willing to fight; aggressively defiant
  • veracity   in agreement with truth; truthfulness
  • vitriolic   expressing bitter hatred toward something or someone

[In the world of chemistry, this means to resemble a glassy metallic sulfate; that's a tough one to work into your average conversation.]

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Studying Antonyms Practice Exercises

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