I am using the word opposite in two ways:

1) To refer to something that has an opposite; 'heat' is an opposite because it has an opposite, 'cold', whereas 'three' is not an opposite because there is no 'opposite' of three.

2) To refer to things that are opposites; to describe the relationship between opposites; 'heat' and 'cold' are opposites.

The first one (I hope) is a noun. Is the second usage as an adjective? I would think so as it describes a relationship, but one could say "the opposites heat and cold", in which case as a pair they are opposites, so would that just make them both 'an opposite', as used in the first definition?

  • The word opposites is a noun, the plural of opposite. The adjective is opposite, without an 's'. Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 12:34
  • Not really; 'Black is the opposite of white'. 'Opposite' here is being used as a noun. 'Opposites' with an 's' is merely the plural form.
    – JDF
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 12:53

1 Answer 1


This is not a question with an obvious answer. I suspect imprecision is making the answer more difficult: 'hot' (not 'heat') is the opposite of 'cold'. Because one noun sense of 'opposite' is 'an antonym', and 'heat' (while not 'the opposite') is a relational antonym of 'cold', it is correct to say that 'heat' and 'cold' are 'opposites', where 'opposites' is a plural noun meaning 'antonyms'. It is also, however, correct to say "heat and cold are opposites" where the sense is adjectival: "heat and cold are altogether different". Thus, whether the use in your second example is as an adjective or a noun depends on what the intended meaning is.

For the definitions used, see opposites. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved November 1 2015 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Opposites. See especially the usage notes on the cited page.

  • 1
    Thank you. I am studying Plato's Phaedo, and the words I am using refer to Platonic Forms: the distinctions in the usage are very slight and difficult to detect. And yes, you are correct about 'heat'; I just use 'heat' because the Form of 'the Hot' is the same thing as 'Heat', without needing to use an article. Likewise, I have been interpreting the Form of the Cold as just Cold, for lack of a better word.
    – socrates
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 5:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.