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[an-tag-uh-nist] /ænˈtæg ə nɪst/
a person who is opposed to, struggles against, or competes with another; opponent; adversary.
the adversary of the hero or protagonist of a drama or other literary work:
Iago is the antagonist of Othello.
Physiology. a muscle that acts in opposition to another.
Compare agonist (def 3).
Dentistry. a tooth in one jaw that articulates during mastication or occlusion with a tooth in the opposing jaw.
Pharmacology. a drug that counteracts the effects of another drug.
Origin of antagonist
1590-1600; < Late Latin antagōnista < Greek antagōnistḗs. See antagonize, -ist
Can be confused
antagonist, proponent, protagonist.
1. contestant, enemy, foe.
1. ally, friend.
Synonym Study
1. See adversary. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for antagonist


an opponent or adversary, as in a contest, drama, sporting event, etc
any muscle that opposes the action of another Compare agonist (sense 1)
a drug that counteracts the effects of another drug Compare synergist (sense 1)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for antagonist

1590s, from French antagoniste (16c.) or directly from Late Latin antagonista, from Greek antagonistes "competitor, opponent, rival," agent noun from antagonizesthai "to struggle against, oppose, be a rival," from anti- "against" (see anti-) + agonizesthai "to contend for a prize," from agon "contest" (see agony). Originally in battle or sport, extended 1620s to any sphere of human activity.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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antagonist in Medicine

antagonist an·tag·o·nist (ān-tāg'ə-nĭst)
Something, such as a muscle, disease, or physiological process, that neutralizes or impedes the action or effect of another.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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antagonist in Science
  1. A muscle that opposes the action of another muscle, as by relaxing while the other one contracts, thereby producing smooth, coordinated movement.

  2. A chemical substance, such as a drug, that interferes with the physiological action of another substance, especially by combining with and blocking its nerve receptor. Compare agonist.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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