Rules For Antonyms

Antonyms – Rules to Know

Before understanding the Rules for Antonyms we first need to know the definition.

The term Antonym means a phrase or word which means just the opposite to the given the word or phrase in the same language.

Rules for antonyms

Rules For Antonyms

Each English word contains a root or a suffix or prefix, so all we have to do is to find that root, analyze whether it is of Greek or a Latin origin and then derive the meaning out of the word. And finally, find out the word which means exactly the opposite of that word.

Rule 1 – Answer Choices

Take note of positively and negatively charged answer choices. It is possible to associate a negative or positive charge with almost any given word. 

Try to discern whether each word in the following list has a –

  1. positive (+)
  2. negative (-), or 
  3. neutral (=) charge.

Choose the best synonym/antonym based on its charge.

Rule 2 – Types of Antonyms

Antonyms have been categorized into two parts, for a better understanding of the students.

Types of Antonyms:

  • Gradable Antonyms: they offer a middle ground to all the words and act on a graded spectrum i.e. within a range.
    • let’s take a word fat. Now it’s antonyms can be thin, skinny, slender, slight, slim, (Here you can see there’s a range of words from very thin to not too thin.)
    • old – new, young, youthful, current, fresh, modern, green. (here old was either age or time, hence all antonyms fall into a broader range)
  • Complementary Antonyms: these are the ones that stand in complete contrast to each other.
    • push and pull
    • In and out
    • Up and down
    • right and left
  • Relational Antonyms: Also known as relational antonyms, the relation of these antonyms are universally opposite.
    • black and white
    • husband and wife
    • pen and paper

Rule 3 – Root Word, Prefix and Suffix

Answering a question without knowing its meaning can be difficult. However, if you have an idea about the root words and prefix or suffix, the process becomes easier.

Root Words:

The basic or the main word that can be used to form different word and still relate to the same meaning is known as a root word.

For example:

  • Form – meaning Shape
    • reform – rebuilding the shape
    • deform – breakdown a shape
    • Formless – something that has no shape.


Words that are placed before the root word to change its meaning.

  • Positive prefix – pre, pro, re, super, en, co etc.
  • Negative Prefix – de, ir, im, mal, un, non, a, in etc.

For example:

    • able – unable
    • sane – insane
    • respect – disrespect
    • Operate – cooperate
    • code – decode
    • symmetrical – asymmetrical
    • sure – ensure


Words that are placed after the root word to change its meaning.

  • Some of the suffix are: less, ful, ment, ion, ive, dom, ism, ness, ship etc.

For example:

    • Free – freedom
    • Friend – Friendship
    • attain – attainment
    • happy – happiness
    • harm – harmful
    • harm – harmless

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