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Adverse vs Antagonistic vs Counter vs Counteractive

Adverse, Antagonistic, Counter and Counteractive all mean so opposed as to cause interference, often harmful or fatal interference. All four may be applied to one thing that comes into conflict with another.

  • an adverse policy
  • an adverse wind had so delayed him that his cargo brought but half its proper price
  • an antagonistic associate
  • a counter proposal
  • a counteractive agency

Only antagonistic, counter, and, occasionally, counteractive are used to express mutual or reciprocal opposition.

  • antagonistic principles
  • counter currents
  • counteractive poisons

Despite their common ground of meaning, each of these four words has distinct implications which limit its applicability and greatly increase its expressiveness.

Adverse conveys so strongly the idea of unfavorable or unpropitious opposition that it often means harmful or fatal.

  • adverse criticism
  • adverse fortune
  • a spirit adverse to the existence of democracy

Antagonistic usually implies hostility and also, when mutual opposition is suggested, incompatibility or even irreconcilability.

  • neighboring races are often antagonistic
  • the antagonistic principles of aristocracy and democracy
  • some sociologists believe that the welfare of the individual and the welfare of society are antagonistic aims

Counter, which usually denotes acting, moving, or proceeding from the opposite side or from opposite sides, does not necessarily connote hostility but it does imply inevitable contact, with either resulting conflict or tension.

  • whirlpools are usually caused by counter currents in a stream
  • the counter influences of authority and freedom in shaping the character of youth

Counteractive, on the other hand, invariably implies the destruction or nullification of the thing or things opposed.

  • prescribing physicians must know the counteractive effects of certain medicines on others
  • in the training of delinquents a bad influence is dealt with by the introduction of a counteractive good influence