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Opposite vs. Similar: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 11, 2024
Opposite refers to radically different in nature; directly contrasting. Similar refers to resembling without being identical; having likeness.

Key Differences

Opposite refers to things that are diametrically different from each other, standing in direct contrast, whereas similar denotes things that are alike in some way, but not identical.
Opposites embody contradiction and polarity, such as night and day, while similar items share common traits, like the likeness between twins.
In terms of relationships, opposite entails a stark difference that is easily noticeable, as in the opposite ends of a spectrum, whereas similar implies a degree of comparison where the resemblance is recognized.
The concept of opposite often involves a binary, mutually exclusive relationship, like hot and cold, while similar suggests a gradation or spectrum of similarity.
In language, antonyms are words with opposite meanings, such as 'happy' and 'sad,' while synonyms are words with similar meanings, like 'big' and 'large.'

Comparison Chart


Directly contrasting
Having likeness but not identical


Mutually exclusive
Partially overlapping

Example in Language

Antonyms (e.g., hot/cold)
Synonyms (e.g., big/large)


Polar extremes
Gradations or spectrum

Usage in Comparison

To highlight differences
To highlight resemblances

Opposite and Similar Definitions


Diametrically different in character or nature.
Joy is the opposite of sorrow.


Having a likeness or resemblance, especially in a general way.
Their opinions are similar on many issues.


Being in a position on the other side; facing.
North is the opposite of south.


Resembling without being identical.
The two cars are similar in shape.


Completely contrary to something else.
Silence is the opposite of noise.


Of the same kind or nature; having a close likeness.
The twins have similar interests.


Something that is the reverse or antithesis of something else.
Winning is the opposite of losing.


Having qualities in common or resembling.
Cats and tigers are similar in their predatory nature.


In a role or position directly contrasting with another.
The teacher took the opposite stance to the student's argument.


Marked by correspondence or resemblance.
The patterns on the two fabrics are similar.


Placed or located directly across from something else or from each other
Opposite sides of a building.


Having a resemblance in appearance or nature; alike though not identical.


Facing the other way; moving or tending away from each other
Opposite directions.


(Mathematics) Having corresponding angles equal and corresponding line segments proportional. Used of geometric figures
Similar triangles.


What does "opposite" mean?

"Opposite" refers to something that is completely different from another thing in nature, position, or effect.

Is "opposite" only used for physical positioning?

No, it can also describe contrasting characteristics, like in "opposite opinions."

Can "opposite" indicate a relationship?

Yes, in terms like "opposite sex" or "opposite number."

Is "opposite" a formal term?

"Opposite" is neutral and can be used in both formal and informal contexts.

What does "similar" mean?

"Similar" describes things that resemble each other but are not exactly the same.

Can "opposite" be used as a noun?

Yes, "opposite" can be a noun, e.g., "He sat on the opposite of the table."

What is the antonym of "opposite"?

"Similar" or "same" are antonyms of "opposite."

Can "opposite" describe feelings?

Yes, it can describe contrasting emotions, like "opposite reactions to a situation."

Does "similar" imply identical?

No, "similar" suggests likeness but not being identical.

How is "opposite" used in mathematics?

In mathematics, "opposite" refers to inversely related elements, like opposite angles.

Is "similar" always positive?

No, it can be neutral, indicating likeness without a value judgment.

What is the opposite of "similar"?

"Opposite" or "different" are opposites of "similar."

Does "opposite" have a verb form?

No, "opposite" does not have a standard verb form.

What is the adjective form of "opposite"?

"Opposite" itself is an adjective, as in "opposite sides."

How is "similar" used in science?

In science, it's used to describe things with common characteristics, like similar species.

Can "similar" be used in a comparative sense?

Yes, as in "This book is similar to that one."

Can "similar" describe abstract concepts?

Yes, it can describe abstract similarities, like in ideas or principles.

What is the noun form of "similar"?

The noun form is "similarity."

Is "similar" used in mathematics?

Yes, in mathematics, "similar" refers to figures with the same shape but different sizes.

Can "similar" be used in legal contexts?

Yes, it can be used to compare cases, laws, or situations that are alike in some aspects.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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