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  1. an active hostility or opposition, as between unfriendly or conflicting groups: the antagonism between the liberal and the conservative parties.
  2. an opposing force, principle, or tendency: Her plan to become an actress met with the antagonism of her family.
  3. Physiology. an opposing action, as by one muscle in relation to another.
  4. Biochemistry, Pharmacology. the opposing action of substances, as drugs, that when taken together decrease the effectiveness of at least one of them (contrasted with synergism).
  5. Ecology.
    1. a relationship between two species of organisms in which the individuals of each species adversely affect the other, as in competition.
    2. the inhibition of the growth of one type of organism by a different type that is competing for the same ecological niche.
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Origin of antagonism

1835–40; (< French antagonisme) < Greek antagṓnisma. See antagonize, -ism
Related formsin·ter·an·tag·o·nism, noun

Synonyms for antagonism

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for antagonism


  1. openly expressed and usually mutual opposition
  2. the inhibiting or nullifying action of one substance or organism on another
  3. physiol the normal opposition between certain muscles
  4. biology the inhibition or interference of growth of one kind of organism by another
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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

Word Origin and History for antagonism


1797, from French antagonisme or directly from late Greek antagonisma, noun of action from antagonizesthai "to struggle against" (see antagonist).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

antagonism in Medicine


  1. Mutual opposition in action between structures, agents, diseases, or physiological processes.mutual resistance
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.