I just created an tag on our site. We usually make tag names in English, and then put the Japanese equivalent in the tag description, but I'm not sure which Japanese word to use.

Wikipedia lists all sorts of words for 'antonym':


The two most common words on this list are 対義語 and 反対語, so I think one of those two would work best. Both seem to have the same meaning, and both seem to be equally common.

Is there any difference between the two that would make one or the other more appropriate in this case? Or would both be equally appropriate?

2 Answers 2


対義語 and 反対語 both work, but I personally think 対義語 is better.

反対語 is the word I heard mainly at elementary school. It's probably because every kid knows what 反対 means, but 対義語 is too difficult for them.

It's perfectly fine to use 反対語 in daily conversations, but after I became an adult, I see 対義語 more often in serious articles. Wikipedia also uses 対義語 as the title of the article.

  • 反対語というのは対義語とほぼ同じ意味に使われますが、どちらかと云えば日常的な用語です。(source)
  • 対義語の方が元にあったのですが字から意味がわかりにくいということから直感的に意味がわかりやすい反対語という言葉が生まれたようです。(source)
  • 小学生に「対義語」といっても意味が分からないので小学生には「反対語」といっています。(source)
  • 3
    This seems relatively in line with the way "opposites" and "antonyms" are used in English-language teaching curriculum.
    – user6595
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 5:04
  • @wuerling Thank you, that's exactly what I wanted to ask about :-)
    – naruto
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 5:05
  • 反対語 is definitely the "easier" spoken variant. Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 0:43

反対語 and 反意語 are equivalents to “antonym." リーダーズ・プラス英和辞典 published by Kenkyusha carries 反対語 and 反意語 as translations of the word, “antonym.”

新明解国語辞典 published by Kodansha gives 反対語、反義語、and アントニム as alternatives to “反意語.” I think 反対語 is most popular among all the synonyms of 反対語, i.e., 反義語、アントニム、対義語 and 対語.

対義語 or 対語 is either one of a pair of words, though it can be used as 反対語 as well.

I think 対語 is more common than 対義語. 新明解国語辞典 defines 対義語 as ① “何らかの意味で一組の関係を成すと認められるそれぞれの語。「父」に対する「母」、「親」に対する「子」、「海」に対する「山」、「白」に対する「赤」。②反対語.- ① either one of the two words that make up a relationship between a pair of something, for examples, “mother” to “father”, “mountain” to “sea,” and “white” to “red.” ② antonym.

  • 2
    Thank you for making me consider 対語 as well, which I had previously ruled out based on corpus evidence. In web-based corpora such as the Google Japanese Web N-Gram corpus, as well as the Tsukuba Web Corpus, 対義語 is more common than 対語. But after reading this answer, I found that in the Balanced Corpus of Contemporary Written Japanese, 対義語 and 対語 are equally common, while 反対語 is more common than either.
    – user1478
    Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 23:24

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