Stylistic functions of antonyms: definition, types and examples

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Stylistic functions of antonyms: definition, types and examples
Stylistic functions of antonyms: definition, types and examples

From the Russian language school curriculum, many people remember that there are words that have opposite meanings. They are called antonyms. The functions they perform in the text will be discussed in this article.

This information may be useful to all people who are interested in the Russian language and wish to improve their knowledge about it. This information will also be useful to those whose work involves the regular writing of a large number of texts.

Why do we need antonyms?

The main function of antonyms is to give variety to speech, make it more vivid and expressive.

They are often included in such stylistic means as thesis and antithesis, as well as some others.

What are the functions of antonyms?

There are several.

Each of these will be discussed in detail in a separate section of the proposed article.

Lexical contrasts

One of the functions of antonyms in the text is the so-called antithesis (the use of words with the opposite meaning, forcreate contrast).

She, as a rule, gives the statement an ironic or other shade necessary for the author.


Houses are new, but prejudices are old (Griboyedov)

old house

Here the great Russian writer contrasts the external and internal decoration of dwellings and the low spiritual qualities of their inhabitants.

Antithesis can be of two types:

  1. Simple. It is also called monomial (consisting of two words opposed to each other). The example above is a perfect illustration of it.
  2. Complicated. It can also be called polynomial.

For example, in the following lines of Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov, this function of antonyms is used.

And we hate, and we love by chance, Sacrificing nothing to either malice or love, And some kind of secret cold reigns in the soul, When the fire boils in the blood.

Mikhail Lermontov

Complex antithesis, as a rule, consists of several pairs of antonyms. All of them serve to express the general idea of ​​the statement.

Negative of the opposite

It often happens that when describing any properties of a person's personality or characteristics of an object or phenomenon, it becomes necessary to exclude the opposite quality in order to avoid misunderstanding. For example, calling a product inexpensive, sometimes they specify that it is, at the same time, not very cheap. Such a stylistic function of antonyms often serves to express phenomena for which there is no exact definition.

So, in the famous song of Vladimir Semenovich Vysotsky from the movie "Vertical" there are words:

If a friend turned up suddenly

Neither a friend nor an enemy, but so…

Mountain climber

Bard uses here this technique, the opposite of the antithesis. That is, it excludes contrasting qualities to describe a person. This means that the one about whom the lyric is sung is not a friend or an enemy, but something in between. There is no specific word for this phenomenon in Russian.

This function of antonyms in speech (negation of contrast quality) can be used if the author wants to point out the mediocrity, ordinariness of an object or phenomenon. A similar technique is also suitable for expressing the facelessness, unremarkableness of a literary hero.

For example, in the novel "Dead Souls" Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol describes Chichikov as follows:

There was a gentleman in the britzka, not handsome, but not bad-looking either, neither too fat nor too thin; one cannot say that it is old, but it is not so that it is too young.

Chichikov in a cart

Such a description creates in the reader an image of a person without any bright distinguishing features, faceless. Further study of the novel confirms this assumption. His main character - really tries not to show any true qualities of his character. Communicating with this or that landowner, he always tries to show himself in a favorable light, says and does only what is expected of him.


The question "what are the stylistic functions of antonyms" can be answered as follows. They are used to limit the temporal and spatial framework. As a rule, such use of them emphasizes the duration of an action, the large size of the territory, or the variety of something.

In one of his works, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov wrote:

Sleep the rich and the poor, the wise and the stupid, the good and the fierce.

sleeping man

A classic of Russian literature, with the help of antonyms, showed in this episode the large number of sleeping people.


This Greek word can be translated into Russian as "witty-stupid". This stylistic means involves the simultaneous use of incompatible concepts to refer to the same object.

For example: a married bachelor, the beginning of the end. It is often used for comic effect. A prerequisite for such a phrase is that its elements must belong to different parts of speech. Therefore, the words included in this figure of speech can only be conditionally called antonyms.

What is a pun?

Comic effect can be achieved even if one of the antonyms has multiple meanings. This technique is called a pun.

Its essence will become clearer if this phenomenon is considered on a specific example.

In their novel "The Twelve Chairs" Ilf and Petrov describe the bride of the protagonist of the book, Ostap Bender, as follows: "The young woman was no longer young."The subject "young" here is used in the meaning of "bride", but it can also mean a person of a fairly young age.

Therefore, its combination with the adjective "not young" gives the phrase a comic character.

Most common mistakes

In the above examples, the functions of antonyms are clear. Their use is justified. But there are times when their inappropriate use leads to stylistic errors.

Here are some tips to help you avoid such errors.

1. Try not to use antonyms if they are an obstacle to understanding the statement, make it difficult to comprehend the meaning.

For example, using them in the phrase "this dress is the cheapest of the expensive" is a stylistic mistake.

2. Incompatible concepts should not be allowed, as, for example, in the sentence "The road was smooth, but bumpy." The two definitions used here don't go well together.

Types of antonyms

The functions of antonyms and their examples found in the works of Russian writers were given in the previous sections of the article. Now a few words should be said about their types.

So, there are antonyms:

Contrary - opposite concepts. Between such pairs of antonyms there may be an intermediate link. For example: Good-Average-Bad

good, average, bad
  • Contradictory - opposites, between which there can be no transitional link.For example, false and true.
  • Conversives are words that can describe a situation or an object when viewed from different points of view. So, the same game of tennis can be perceived both as a loss and as a victory. The choice of suitable words depends on which of the opponents will describe this situation. In other words, reverse antonyms serve to describe the same object by different subjects.
  • Vector - such antonyms serve to designate the same phenomenon, object, action, and so on, depending on its direction. For example: entry and exit.
entrance and exit

Paradigmatic - those concepts that are opposed to each other in the context of any philosophical concept: earth - sky, body - soul, and so on

Functions of synonyms and antonyms

In this article it is impossible, at least briefly, not to touch on one more topic. It can be defined as follows: "Types and functions of synonyms and antonyms".

A lot has already been said about the first of these phenomena. Therefore, it makes sense to go to the second one.

So, synonyms are the opposite category of antonyms. So called words or expressions whose meaning is the same. They are of the following types:

  • Full - interchangeable words that have the same stylistic coloring. For example, linguistics and linguistics.
  • Semantic - they differ in shades of meaning. For example: speak and declare. The first is more neutral, the second involves making a speech with a certaindegree of emotionality.

The main function of synonyms is to complement each other, clarify the meaning, present the most complete picture of the events described.


Both synonyms and antonyms are an excellent way to add variety to speech. The text becomes much more interesting and brighter if it contains stylistic means. This applies to oral as well as written speech (all styles). Therefore, this article provided information about synonyms and antonyms, their types and functions.

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