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Borrowed from Latin oppōnēns (opposing), present active participle of oppōnō (I oppose).


  • IPA(key): /əˈpəʊnənt/
  • (file)


opponent (plural opponents)

  1. One who opposes another; one who works or takes a position against someone or something; one who attempts to stop the progress of someone or something.
    The person who ran against her in the last election proved to be a formidable opponent.
    During the crackdown, many opponents of the regime were arrested.
    1. One who opposes another physically (in a fight, sport, game, or competition).
      • 1720, Alexander Pope, The Iliad of Homer, London: Bernard Lintott, Volume 6, “Observations on the Twenty-Third Book,” no. 39, p. 136,[1]
        In the Chariot-Race Achilles is represented as being able to conquer every Opponent []
      • 1819 December 20 (indicated as 1820), Walter Scott, “[HTTP://WWW.GUTENBERG.ORG/FILES/82/82-H/82-H.HTM CHAPTER 11]”, in Ivanhoe; a Romance. [], volume (please specify |volume=I to III), Edinburgh: [] Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co. [], →OCLC:
        [] he slid his right hand down to his left, and with the full swing of the weapon struck his opponent on the left side of the head, who instantly measured his length upon the green sward.
      • 1958, Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana[2], New York: Pocket Books, published 1974, Part 5, Chapter 5, p. 196:
        [] it is possible for a good [draughts] player to defeat an opponent without capturing his pieces.
    2. One who opposes another in words (in a dispute, argument or controversy).
      • 1777, Hannah More, “Thoughts on Conversation”, in Essays on Various Subjects[3], London: J. Wilkie and T. Cadell, page 54:
        It is easier to confound than to convince an opponent; the former may be effected by a turn that has more happiness than truth in it.
      • 1847, Charlotte Brontë, chapter 4, in Jane Eyre[4]:
        “What more have you to say?” she asked, rather in the tone in which a person might address an opponent of adult age than such as is ordinarily used to a child.
    3. One who is opposed or objects (to a policy, course of action or set of ideas).
      She was a dedicated opponent of the death penalty.
      • 1652, Peter Heylin, Cosmographie[5], London: Henry Seile, Book 1, Part 20, p. 205:
        Their Oath is to maintain the Romish-Catholick Religion, and persecute all Opponents to it.
      • 1853, Elizabeth Gaskell, chapter 1, in Cranford[6]:
        My own friends had been among the bitterest opponents of any proposal to visit the Captain and his daughters, only twelve months before; and now he was even admitted in the tabooed hours before twelve.
    4. (historical) The participant who opens an academic debate by putting forward objections to a theological or philosophical thesis.
      • 1551, Thomas Wilson, “The maner of confutacion twoo waies considered”, in The Rule of Reason, conteinyng the Arte of Logique[7], London:
        We make the argument appere slender, when we receiue it laughyngly, and declare by wordes, euen at the first, that it is nothyng to the purpose, and so abashe the opponent.
      • 1587, Raphael Holinshed et al., “The Continvation of the chronicles of England from the yeare of our Lord 1576, to this present yeare 1586, &c.”, in The First and Second Volumes of Chronicles[8], London, page 1355:
        [] diuinitie disputations, in all which those learned opponents, respondents, & moderators, quited themselues like themselues, sharplie and soundlie, besides all other solemne sermons & lectures.
      • 1679, William Penn, An Address to Protestants[9], London, Part 2, p. 77:
        [] by the many Disputes that rise from hence, Mens Wits were confounded with their matters, Truth was lost & Brotherhood destroyed: thus the Devil acted the Part both of Opponent and Defendant, and managed the Passions of both Parties to his End, which was DISCORD.
      • 1700, John Sergeant, Transnatural Philosophy[10], London, Book 3, Chapter 1, p. 276:
        [] this untoward Method allows him who is the Respondent, to prevaricate from his Duty, and turn Opponent: Which confounds those two Offices, and perverts all the Laws of Reasoning or Discoursing.



Derived terms[edit]


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opponent (comparative more opponent, superlative most opponent)

  1. (obsolete) Opposing; adverse; antagonistic.
    • 1647, Francis Bland, The Souldiers March to Salvation[11], York, page 25:
      [] we are to consider enemies as men opponent to peace and justice, and to these they are by warrs to be reduced; And no other ends in the pursuite of enemies by sword and hostile Acts are to be sought for []
    • 1726, Elijah Fenton, transl., The Odyssey of Homer, Translated from the Greek by Alexander Pope[12], London, published 1760, Volume 4, Book 19, lines 524-525, p. 44:
      Young Ithacus advanc’d, defies the foe,
      Poising his lifted lance in act to throw:
      The savage renders vain the wound decreed,
      And springs impetuous with opponent speed!
    • 1792, Thomas Holcroft, Anna St. Ives[13], London: Shepperson and Reynolds, Volume 4, Letter 64, p. 53:
      The reasons you have urged are indeed weighty: yet they have never made an impression so deep upon my mind, as not to take flight, and leave their opponent arguments in some sort the victors.
    • 1828, Stephen Drew, Principles of Self-Knowledge[14], London: Longman, Volume 2, Section 23, p. 24:
      Let it not be supposed, that by “catholic,” I mean to designate men who are lax in their principles, and alike indifferent to all religious systems. On the contrary, they are more earnestly attached to truth, and more opponent to sin than others []
  2. (obsolete) Situated in front; opposite.

Further reading[edit]




  1. third-person plural future active indicative of oppōnō