The word "antonyms" covers any pair of words where the meaning is opposite -- quiet and loud, cautious and foolhardy, simple and complex -- but each word in these pairs could have other partners instead -- loud and silent, cautious and reckless, simple and intricate, etc. Some pairs of antonyms are much more closely related, linguistically, with one having been derived from the other or both derived from a common root -- visible and invisible, normal and abnormal, hopeful and hopeless. There is no other word which has the same direct relationship with visible that invisible has.

Is there a specific term to describe these special antonyms?

2 Answers 2


These antonyms differ structurally.

So they are termed "Derivative Antonyms ".

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary


linguistics  : formed from another word or base

 : formed by derivation

// a derivative word


You are not entirely wrong. According to this Wikipedia article 'antonym' is

The term antonym (and the related antonymy) is commonly taken to be synonymous with opposite, but antonym also has other more restricted meanings. Graded (or gradable) antonyms are word pairs whose meanings are opposite and which lie on a continuous spectrum (hot, cold). Complementary antonyms are word pairs whose meanings are opposite but whose meanings do not lie on a continuous spectrum (push, pull). Relational antonyms are word pairs where opposite makes sense only in the context of the relationship between the two meanings (teacher, pupil). These more restricted meanings may not apply in all scholarly contexts, with Lyons (1968, 1977) defining antonym to mean gradable antonyms, and Crystal (2003) warns that antonymy and antonym should be regarded with care.

So, in order to answer your question. You can call such binary pairs of terms opposite words.

From Cambridge Dictinary

something or someone that is completely different from another person or thing:

e.g. The opposite of "fast" is "slow".

Again, from same wiki article

In lexical semantics, opposites are words lying in an inherently incompatible binary relationship, like the opposite pairs big : small, long : short, and precede : follow. The notion of incompatibility here refers to the fact that one word in an opposite pair entails that it is not the other pair member. For example, something that is long entails that it is not short. It is referred to as a 'binary' relationship because there are two members in a set of opposites. The relationship between opposites is known as opposition. A member of a pair of opposites can generally be determined by the question What is the opposite of X ?

  • 1
    What about canonical, lexical and affixal antonymy? The question seems to focus on the last of those, and the three I mention are not contrastive categories.
    – JEL
    Apr 16, 2019 at 4:30

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