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A Comprehensive Guide to Antonyms for Teachers with over 200 Examples.

antonyms - yes and no

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We’re going to deal with antonyms in this blog including what they are, what they do, what you need to teach, a lot of examples and some worksheets for your class.

Table of Contents

Antonyms - What are they?

The English language is complex. With a history of adding words and phrases from all over the world, the English language is full of ways of saying the same thing a hundred different ways. It is this ability to convey tiny nuances that helps make English a rich and varied language.

“She walked down the corridor.” – Is rather uninteresting and boring, whereas “She marched down the corridor”, “She trotted down the corridor”, “She flew down the corridor”, “She wandered down the corridor”, all imply something a little different and make us wonder why is she walking like that. 

Encouraging students to broaden their vocabulary by using “more interesting” ways of describing a situation or conveying an idea is one of the best ways to improve their writing.

This blog is about antonyms but like the national curriculum we will bundle some information about synonyms here.

The suffix -onym comes from the Ancient Greek and means “name”. For example, an acronym is a word formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term such as radar – RAdio Detection And Ranging. There’s a great & distracting list of -onym words on Wikipedia

-onym words provide a means of classifying sets of words with common attributes.

Here we’re going to deal with antonyms (but synonyms and homonyms are part of the national curriculum as well).

Antonyms are words with opposite meanings. For example, good and bad.

Synonyms are words with similar meanings. For example, tiny & small. You can learn more from synonyms through our Emile article with over 600 examples of what a synonym is.

Homonyms are words that are pronounced and spelled the same, but have different meanings. For example, band can be a music group or a ring.

This makes more sense the more examples you see (and we’ve got loads of examples for you!)

Antonyms - What you need to Teach.

Antonyms National Curriculum

Students simply need to understand what an “antonym” or opposite word means. 

SATs questions usually prompt students by referring “opposite”. Once a student has understood the principle, then you should only need to remind them once in a while to embed the understanding. 

Antonym example sat paper

Antonyms - Lesson Ideas.

Start your antonym lesson by reviewing the what synonym and antonym mean. 

Get your class going by encouraging them to list as many synonyms of “big” as they can as a class, on their own, in pairs or groups. 

Then create a list of antonyms for “big”. 

Ask why it is beneficial to add synonyms and antonyms to their vocabularies. (It’s an easy way to expand to make their writing more engaging and expand their vocabulary.)

Antonym Bingo!

antonym bingo

Bingo is great way to engage students – especially the competitive ones – with just about any vocabulary unit you are teaching. 

To play antonym bingo, you will need a list of words and their antonyms (see below :-)) which your students already know.

Print out blank bingo boards  – a table with 15 spaces – for your class – one per student. 

Show 30+ words from the list on your IWB. 

Ask each student to fill their bingo board with random words from the list. 

To play the game: 

Read out randomly words that are opposite to those on shown on the iWB.  

If a student has a word with the opposite meaning they can mark it off.

Remind students that they should not mark off the word that they hear, but they should mark its opposite!

When someone calls bingo, review the words you called and the appropriate antonyms to make sure the win is true. This can be a great opportunity to review the antonym pairs with your students. 


Grammar with Emile

One issue that nearly all teachers encounter is that students remember what antonyms are when they have met them recently, but a few weeks down the line, they can have forgotten all about them. 

Grammar with Emile is a great way to harness the power of competition and have them quickly recall grammar terms like antonym and synonym.  

Emile Wizard- Grammar game

A List of over 200 Antonyms for the Classroom

absent – present
accept – decline, refuse
accurate – inaccurate
advantage – disadvantage
against – for
agree – disagree
all – none, nothing
always – never
answer – question
antonym – synonym!
apart – together
appear – disappear
approve – disapprove
arrive – depart
ascend – descend
awake – asleep

backward – forward
bad – good
beautiful – ugly
before – after
begin – end
below – above
best – worst
better – worse
big – little, small
bitter – sweet
black – white
bottom – top
brighten – fade
broad – narrow

can – cannot, can’t
capable – incapable
careful – careless
cheap – expensive
clear – opaque
clockwise – anticlockwise
close – far
closed – open
cold – hot
comfort – discomfort
common – rare
compulsory – voluntary
conceal – reveal
cool – warm
correct – incorrect, wrong
create – destroy
cruel – kind

dark – light
day – night
daytime – nighttime
decrease – increase
deep – shallow
definite – indefinite
demand – supply
disappear – appear
discourage – encourage
down – up
downwards – upwards

early – late
east – west
easy – hard, difficult
empty – full
encourage – discourage
end – begin, start
enter – exit
even – odd
exterior – interior
external – internal

fade – brighten
fail – succeed
false – true
famous – unknown
far – near
fast – slow
first – last
float – sink
fold – unfold
foolish – wise
for – against
forget – remember
fortunate – unfortunate
found – lost
friend – enemy
full – empty

gentle – rough
girl – boy
gloomy – cheerful
go – stop
good – bad, evil
grow – shrink
guest – host
guilty – innocent


happy – sad
hard – easy, soft
hate – love
heavy – light
high – low
honest – dishonest
horizontal – vertical
hot – cold
humble – proud

ill – healthy, well
important – trivial
in – out
include – exclude
increase – decrease
inhale – exhale
inner – outer
inside – outside
intelligent – stupid, unintelligent
intentional – accidental
interior – exterior
internal – external
join – separate
junior – senior
just – unjust
justice – injustice

knowledge – ignorance
known – unknown

large – small
last – first
laugh – cry
lawful – unlawful, illegal
left – right
lend -borrow
lengthen – shorten
lenient – strict
less – more
light – dark, heavy
like – dislike, hate
likely – unlikely
limited – boundless
little – big
long – short
loose – tight
lose – find
loss – win
loud – quiet
love – hate
low – high
loyal – disloyal

major – minor
many – few
mature – immature
maximum – minimum
melt – freeze
messy – neat
minority – majority
misunderstand – understand
more – less

nadir – zenith
narrow – wide
neat – messy, untidy
never – always
new – old
night – day
nighttime – daytime
no – yes
noisy – quiet
none – some
north – south

obedient – disobedient
odd – even
old – new
old – young
on – off
optimist – pessimist
out – in
outer – inner
over – under

past – present
patient – impatient
peace – war
permanent – temporary
plentiful – scarce
plural – singular
possible – impossible
poverty – wealth, riches
powerful – weak
pretty – ugly
private – public
prudent – imprudent
pure – impure
push – pull


qualified – unqualified
question – answer

raise – lower
rapid – slow
rare – common
real – fake
regular – irregular
rich – poor
right – left, wrong
rough – smooth

safe – unsafe
same – opposite
satisfactory – unsatisfactory
secure – insecure
separate – join, together
serious – trivial
shallow – deep
shrink – grow
sick – healthy, ill
simple – complex, hard
singular – plural
sink – float
slim – fat, thick
slow – fast
sober – drunk
soft – hard
some – none
sorrow – joy
sour – sweet
sow -reap
start – finish
stop – go
straight – crooked
strong – weak
success – failure
sunny – cloudy
synonym – antonym

take – give
tall – short
tame – wild
them – us
there – here
thick – thin
together – apart
top – bottom
tough – easy, tender
true – false

under – over
unfold – fold
unknown – known
unqualified – qualified
unsafe – safe
up – down
upstairs – downstairs
us – them
useful – useless

vast – tiny
victory – defeat
virtue – vice
visible – invisible
voluntary – compulsory

war – peace
wax – wane
weak – strong
wet – dry
white – black
wide – narrow
win – lose
within – outside
wrong – right

yes – no
yin – yang
young – old

zenith – nadir
zip – unzip

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