Yin YangAntonymy is the relationship between antonyms, or the quality of being opposites. Young children enjoy playing the Opposite Game by naming the antonyms of “hot,” “day,” “soft”, etc. Adults can extend the game to other words, the more difficult the better. You may have to get creative. The opposite of “refrigerator” may come to mind quickly, but what is the opposite of “bed”? Is it “floor”? Or “coffee”?

Cleaved Antonyms

You can create a game by splitting certain words into parts, finding the opposites of those parts, and then joining the words back together. For instance, the word “nuclear” can be split into two parts, “nu” and “clear.” The opposite of “nu” (or “new”) is “old” and you might say the opposite of “clear” is “muddy.” Therefore, the cleaved antonym of “nuclear” is “oldmuddy.” To play with a friend, simply present your cleaved antonym and challenge your friend to come up with the solution. Here are a few for you to solve. (To read the solutions, highlight the white space next to each item.)

  • pausbasements——-See Answer
    mathematics (ma-them-attics)
  • springhigh————–See Answer
    follow (fall-low)
  • madampray————See Answer
    circus (sir-cuss)
  • obliquewelcome——See Answer
    direction (direct-shun)
  • sick-womanjock——See Answer
    well-mannered (well-man-nerd)
  • robbermeearly——–See Answer
    copulate (cop-you-late)
  • lessoffyum————–See Answer
    moronic (more-on-ick)
  • candivorce————–See Answer
    canteloupe (can’t-elope)
  • crustdepress———–See Answer
    correlate (core-elate)
  • protreasuregreet—–See Answer
    conjunction (con-junk-shun)


Some words are their own antonyms. One example is “cleave,” which means both “divide” and “adhere” (making it the ideal word to describe cleaved antonyms). The word “off” can be an auto-antonym: “The alarm went off, so I turned it off.” Other examples:

  • dust: to remove dust; to add dust
  • fast: moving quickly; not moving
  • refrain: non-action; repeated action
  • sanction: permit; punish
  • replace: put back; substitute


False antonymy exists with words like “flammable” and “inflammable,” which seem like they should be antonyms, but are actually synonyms. Other examples:

  • limit; delimit
  • pending; impending
  • valuable; invaluable
  • claim; declaim
  • inception; conception

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