Rhetorical Devices: Antithesis

Device: Antithesis

Origin: From the Greek ἀντί (anti) meaning “against” and θέσις (thesis) meaning “position”.

In plain English: Contrasting two different (often opposite) ideas in the same sentence or in two consecutive sentences.


  • The contrast between the two ideas is starker than it would be in ordinary speech.
  • The message or focus is usually on the second idea.


  • Antithesis always contains two different ideas.
  • The grammatical structure of antithesis should be balanced. The contrasting ideas must be expressed in a parallel manner.
  • Aristotle said that antithesis makes it easier for the audience to understand the point being made.


Speech is silver but silence is golden.”

— Unknown


Man proposesGod disposes.”

— Unknown


“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

— Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1771)


“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”

— Martin Luther King, 28 August 1968


We find ourselves rich in goods, but ragged in spiritreaching with magnificentprecision for the moon, but falling into raucous discord on earth. We are caught in warwanting peace. We are torn by divisionwanting unity.

— Richard Nixon, 20 January 1969


“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

— Neil Armstrong, 21 July 1969


And finally, we must have a sense of responsibility for the future. We are not destined to be adversaries. But it is not guaranteed that we will be allies. For us, there is no fate waiting to be revealed, only a future waiting to be created — by the actions we take, the choices we make, and the genuine views we have of one another and of our own future.

— Bill Clinton, 5 June 2000 (Speech to the Russian Duma)

Post courtesy of: John Zimmer @ mannerofspeaking.org [link to source]
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