The word with exactly the opposite meaning of another word from the same pair of words can be termed as its antonym. There can be more than one antonym for one particular word.
correct – incorrect
Mainly Antonyms can be divided into 3 categories.
A. Gradable Antonyms
B. Complementary Antonyms
C. Relational Antonyms = Converse Antonyms
A. Gradable Antonyms : Gradable antonym is a word from a pair of words with opposite meaning. But in this case both the words belong to the same range or field.
Hot – cold
Here hot and cold are two opposite words. In this case the range or the field is same i.e. temperature. So hot and cold are two words lying on the two opposite ends of temperature.
Heavy – light
Here heavy and light are antonyms. The range or the field being same is weight.
Gradable antonyms have 3 characteristics. They are as follows….
1. These antonyms are gradable…which means the words of the same pair differ in terms of degree like the antonyms of the same pair can have comparative and superlative degree.
Example : hot and cold are two gradable antonyms.
But when we say…
Coffee in this cup is hotter. We need not say that the coffee in the other cup is colder. It could be coldest.
2. Gradable antonyms do not have any absolute criterion. In this case the criterion is relative.
Example : We all know that a small car is bigger than a big apple. But we cannot define exactly how big it is.
3. Third characteristics says that one of the pairs of antonym is the cover term. The cover term is known as Unmarked. Unmarked is more frequently used as marked.
We often say…
How old are you?
How tall is she?
How young are you?
How short is she?
Here the unmarked ones or the cover terms are old and tall. Marked ones are young and short. The difference between marked and unmarked reveals the latent worth of the speech. People prefer to be tall rather than short.
B. Complementary Antonyms : Complementary antonym is one word from a pair of words having opposite meaning. But here the words do not belong to the same range or field.
push – pull
off – on
They have the opposite meaning but they do not share any common field.
Just like Gradable antonyms Complementary antonyms also have three characteristics.
Complementary antonyms split an entire semantic arena totally.
He is more a female than male.
It means he is a male but not a female. He is a male but his characteristics are closer to a female. The rejection of male states the declaration of female and the declaration of female states the assertion of male. The words male and female do not have any superlative or comparative degrees. They do not have any transitional degree between this set of antonyms.
Coming to the second characteristic, the standard in this type of antonym is absolute. To explain precisely….the standard is same in all cases it is applicable to. The principles or the standards to tell male from female is same when we refer to the human beings and the animals.
There is no cover term in Complementary antonyms.
We cannot ask anybody HOW MALE ARE YOU like HOW OLD ARE YOU. We ask IS IT A BOY OR A GIRL which happens to be normal question.
C. Relational Antonyms = Converse Antonyms : Relational antonym is a word from a pair of words with opposite meaning. But in this case the opposite is meaningful only in reference to the relationship between the two meanings. Relational Antonyms is also called Converse Antonyms.
As such there is no opposite word of husband…but husband and wife are considered antonyms in reference to the relationship.