‘Protagonist vs 'Antagonist': What's the Difference?'

By Shanea Patterson, updated on December 21, 2022

You might have heard the terms ‘protagonist’ and ‘antagonist’ while discussing stories. But they’re pretty similar in spelling, but what’s the difference? We’ll cover that in this article, plus teach you how to use both correctly in a sentence.

  • The quick answer is that a ‘protagonist’ is usually the main character of a story, typically a hero.
  • The ‘antagonist’ is the character that opposes the protagonist, typically a villain.

‘Protagonist’ vs. ‘Antagonist’ Characters

As you just learned, the ‘protagonist’ is usually the hero of the story. The ‘antagonist’ is the ‘protagonist’s’ opposition. A protagonist can also be an anti-hero (bad guy).

However, in most movies, the antagonist is the bad guy.

For example, in most kid’s movies and fairytales, this is usually the case.

Difference Between ‘Protagonist and Antagonist’

We just learned that the difference between a ‘protagonist’ and an ‘antagonist’ is that the former is usually the good guy and the latter the bad guy.

Let’s dive deeper into the meaning of each word by quickly defining them.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Protagonist’

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘protagonist’ is: “the principal character in a literary work (such as a drama or story),” “the leading actor or principal character in a television show, movie, book, etc.,” “an active participant in an event,” and “a leader, proponent, or supporter of a cause: champion.”

Synonyms of the word include:

  • High priest
  • Backer
  • Friend
  • Advocator
  • Paladin
  • Promoter
  • Proponent
  • Espouser
  • True believer
  • White knight
  • Tub-thumper

Definition and Meaning of ‘Antagonist’

Merriam-Webster defines ‘antagonist’ as: “one the contends with or opposes another: adversary, opponent,” “an agent of physiological antagonism: such as a) a muscle that contracts with and limits the action of an agonist with which it is paired (also called antagonistic muscle), b) a chemical that acts within the body to reduce the physiological activity of another chemical substance (such as an opiate), especially: one that opposes the action on the nervous system of a drug or a substance occurring naturally in the body by combining with and blocking its nervous receptor.”

Synonyms of the word include:

  • Adversary
  • Hostile
  • Enemy
  • Opponent
  • Foe

Now that we know what both words mean let’s see how to use them both in a sentence.

How to Use ‘Protagonist’ in a Sentence

Let’s take a look at a few examples of how to use ‘protagonist’ in a sentence.

  • My favorite movie protagonist is Katy Herring from Mean Girls.
  • The protagonist is modeling those outfits nicely.
  • I hate when they change the actor who plays the protagonist – like in Home Alone 3.
  • The actress who played the protagonist is my fiancée.
  • Does he play an anti-hero or an antagonist?
  • The protagonist is about to be killed by the antagonist.

How to Use ‘Antagonist’ in a Sentence

Now, let’s see some examples of how to use ‘antagonist’ in a sentence.

  • Let’s see who the antagonist of this movie is going to be.
  • The antagonist in The Lion King is Simba’s uncle, Scar.
  • The worst movie antagonist is the Wicked Witch of the West, according to my mom.
  • I played the antagonist in my high school production of Annie.
  • We need an understudy for the antagonist in our community play.
  • There were a lot of auditions for the part of the antagonist.

Final Thoughts on ‘Protagonist’ and ‘Antagonist’

Now that you know what both words mean, you can use the above examples to use them in your own writing correctly. Remember, they mean opposite things, so don’t confuse them.

To help you remember, ‘pro’ is positive, which means it’s the hero of the story. If you ever need a refresher, pop back over and brush up on what you learned.

We’ve also got a whole library of content chocked full of information on confusing words and phrases you might come across in the English language. Go check it out.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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