Definition of antagonist in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /anˈtaɡ(ə)nɪst/


1A person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary: the woman was forcing her antagonist’s face into the mud
More example sentences
  • Most of these countries, of course, are traditional adversaries or antagonists.
  • It also means that copyright gives no one the exclusive right to tell stories about archaeologists in search of artifacts hidden in snake-infested caves while simultaneously confronting dangerous human antagonists.
  • They wander off on their own, they blow up a poacher's shack for no apparent reason, and they attempt to confront their wily antagonists head on.
adversary, opponent, enemy, foe, nemesis, rival, competitor, contender;
(antagonists) opposition, competition, the other side
rare corrival
2 Biochemistry A substance which interferes with or inhibits the physiological action of another: LSD is a serotonin antagonist Compare with agonist.
More example sentences
  • Progress has been made in the development of new anti-emetic drugs, particularly the serotonin antagonists which are potent inhibitors of chemotherapy-induced vomiting.
  • It is also an effective antagonist or inhibitor of cortisol, a stress hormone that maintains the integrity of the circulatory system.
  • The use of selective serotonin antagonists for early-onset alcohol dependence also has been investigated, with positive results.
3 Anatomy A muscle whose action counteracts that of another specified muscle. Compare with agonist.
Example sentences
  • The anterior tibialis muscle was chosen because of its function as an antagonist to the peroneal muscles.
  • This can be studied by transposing the innervation of a muscle to its antagonist, or by transposing one of its tendons to the opposite side of a joint, such that the mechanical action of the muscle is reversed.
  • Moving through a complete range of motion will strengthen the agonist and stretch the antagonist muscle.


Late 16th century: from French antagoniste or late Latin antagonista, from Greek antagōnistēs, from antagōnizesthai 'struggle against' (see antagonize).

  • agony from Late Middle English:

    Agony referred originally only to mental anguish. It came into English via late Latin from Greek agōnia, from agōn ‘contest’ (the base, too, of agonize (late 16th century)). The Greek sense development moved from struggle for victory in the games, to any struggle, to mental struggle specifically (such as the torment of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane). The extension in English to an idea of ‘physical’ suffering dates from the early 17th century. Greek agōn is also the source of the dramatic protagonist (late 17th century) from Greek proto- ‘first’ and a agōnistes ‘actor, contestant’ and at the root of antagonist (late 16th century) from anti- ‘against’ and agōnízesthai ‘struggle’.

Words that rhyme with antagonist

agonist, protagonist

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: an|tag¦on|ist

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.