I have been doing some antonym and synonym exercises as part of my preparation for a verbal reasoning test, and I was asked to pick an antonym for the word emphatic. There were four choices given to pick from:

1) denial




In the answers it is stated that the word narrow is the antonym because the definition for the word emphatic is vigorous and decisive, and the opposite of the second if these is 'narrow' i.e. they won by a narrow margin.

I don't understand the word choice or the explanation behind it. Please could someone be kind enough to explain this to me.

ANY help is appreciated! Thanks!

  • 7
    I'm on your side. The test is screwy. The definition of emphatic is using emphasis in speech or action; forceful or insistent. There's no definition of narrow that really qualifies as an antonym. Did the test instructions say to pick the best as opposed to the correct answer? Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 11:35
  • 7
    Tests are imperfect, and this one seems to have been generated by a computer. No literate human would describe narrow as an antonym for emphatic without tons of qualifying context. Even with that, it's a stretch.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 11:40

2 Answers 2


Wow! They are expecting a lot in this quiz. It is more like a cryptic crossword clue.

  1. emphatic is an adjective, denial is a noun (thus they can't be antonyms)

  2. vehement is a near synonym for emphatic - they are not opposites

  3. conclusive describes the correctness of a statement, emphatic describes how it was made

That only leaves (4).

The explanation that it is an antonym in the context of elections is very restrictive and requires you to have much general knowledge as well as knowing the definitions.

P.S. One of your tags is meaning-in-context. You didn't give us any context. Was the question preceded by a text about elections?

  • Hi. Thank you for your response. The question did not have any context in it - I incorrectly included that tag. Apologies!
    – Anona anon
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 11:56
  • @Anonaanon - No worries. By the way, you can edit your question to delete the tag if you so wish. Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 12:32
  • 2
    I doubt that most native English speakers would pick "narrow" as the antonym of "emphatic" (absent some context, at least).
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 13:19

It's just idiom and is a fair enough test for fluent speakers. An emphatic win is a win by a large margin. A win that emphasizes or highlights the difference between the winner and the other contestants, rubs it in, almost. Like a winning by an innings and 500 runs in cricket. It's the opposite of a narrow win. You are contrasting various types of wins, not wins vs losses. In this assumed context, b and c are synonyms of emphatic and a is your wild card.

  • 3
    It's hardly a fair test even for native speakers when they don't give any context. Even with context, ‘emphatic win’ is not a very idiomatic collocation (collocations like ‘decisive win’ and ‘landslide win’ are about 15–20 times more common if you Ngram them). It's like asking for an antonym of fake and then having the antonym be either spread or audiate. Yes, both make sense as antonyms in the right context, but no one—fluent, native, or otherwise—would think of the right context if it isn't given. Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 16:03

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