An antonym is a word that has the opposite meaning of another word, for example, pona and ike are antonyms. In some logographic writing systems, such as sitelen pona, some antonyms also use opposite glyphs. Antonyms provide a sense of balance, not implying either concept to be the default or proper state of being.
If Toki Pona were more dedicated to minimalism, antonyms might have been merged to further reduce the vocabulary. Instead, many of these words have different semantic spaces or parts of speech. For example:
- pimeja could be thought of as antonyms with suno and walo, even though those are not synonyms with each other.
- sama can be used as a preposition, while its antonym ante cannot.
- tawa can be a preposition, while kama can be a preverb.
- In time phrases, pini is often antonyms with kama instead of with open.
Some antonyms are "contradictory" when used at the same time; jan pona ike is an example from lipu pu. Other antonyms have less paradoxical interpretations. moku seli lete could be read as the contradiction "cold hot food" or "raw cooked food", but could also mean "[re]frozen cooked food".
ala may be used as a modifier to vaguely form an opposite. In one context, ike ala could mean pona, while in another, the speaker could simply feel neutral. More rarely, jasima, a nimi ku suli, is used for true "negative" opposites (jasima ijo ≠ ijo ala), leaving ala to specify "absence of" opposites.