Alternative formsEdit


Formed from Middle English ayenes, agenes, againes (in opposition to), a southern variant of agen, or directly from again, either way with adverbial genitive singular ending -es; the parasitic -t was added circa 1350, probably by confusion with the superlative ending -est. Surface analysis again +‎ -st (excrescent ending).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /əˈɡɛ(ɪ)nst/
  • (US) IPA(key): /əˈɡɛnst/
  • (Canada) IPA(key): /əˈɡeɪnst/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: a‧gainst



  1. In a contrary direction to.
    It is hard work to swim against the current.
  2. In physical opposition to; in collision with.
    The rain pounds against the window.
  3. In physical contact with, so as to abut or be supported by.
    The ladder was leaning against the wall.
    The puppy rested its head against a paw.
    The kennel was put against the back wall.
  4. Close to, alongside.
    A row of trees stood against a fence.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 5, in The Celebrity:
      We expressed our readiness, and in ten minutes were in the station wagon, rolling rapidly down the long drive, for it was then after nine. [] As we reached the lodge we heard the whistle, and we backed up against one side of the platform as the train pulled up at the other.
  5. In front of; before (a background).
    The giant was silhouetted against the door.
  6. In contrast or comparison with.
    He stands out against his classmates.
    This report sets out the risks against the benefits.
  7. In competition with, versus.
    The Tigers will play against the Bears this weekend.
    • 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 639762314, page 0029:
      “[…] it is not fair of you to bring against mankind double weapons ! Dangerous enough you are as woman alone, without bringing to your aid those gifts of mind suited to problems which men have been accustomed to arrogate to themselves.”
    • 2011 September 24, Aled Williams, “Chelsea 4-1 Swansea”, in BBC Sport:
      The breakthrough came through Torres who, pilloried for his miss against Manchester United a week earlier, scored his second goal of the season.
  8. Contrary to; in conflict with.
    Doing this is against my principles.
    It is against the law to smoke on these premises.
    There was no car in sight so we crossed against the red light.
  9. In opposition to.
    Antonym: for
    Are you against freedom of choice?
    He waged a ten-year campaign against the company that was polluting the river.
    I'd bet against his succeeding.
    (with implied object) Ten voted for, and three voted against.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 4, in The Celebrity:
      Mr. Cooke at once began a tirade against the residents of Asquith for permitting a sandy and generally disgraceful condition of the roads. So roundly did he vituperate the inn management in particular, and with such a loud flow of words, that I trembled lest he should be heard on the veranda.
    • 2013 May-June, David Van Tassel, Lee DeHaan, “Wild Plants to the Rescue”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 3:
      Plant breeding is always a numbers game. [] The wild species we use are rich in genetic variation, []. In addition, we are looking for rare alleles, so the more plants we try, the better. These rarities may be new mutations, or they can be existing ones that are neutral—or are even selected against—in a wild population. A good example is mutations that disrupt seed dispersal, leaving the seeds on the heads long after they are ripe.
  10. Of betting odds, denoting a worse-than-even chance.
    Antonym: on
    That horse is fifty-to-one against, so it has virtually no chance of winning.
  11. In exchange for.
    The vouchers are redeemable against West End shows and theatre breaks.
  12. As counterbalance to. (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  13. As a charge on.
    Tax is levied against income from sales.
  14. As protection from.
    He turned the umbrella against the wind.
    • 1638, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy. [], 5th edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed [by Robert Young, Miles Flesher, and Leonard Lichfield and William Turner] for Henry Cripps, OCLC 932915040, partition II, section 2, member 6, subsection iv, page 298:
      Beautie alone is a ſoveraigne remedy againſt feare,griefe,and all melancholy fits; a charm,as Peter de la Seine and many other writers affirme,a banquet it ſelfe;he gives inſtance in diſcontented Menelaus that was ſo often freed by Helenas faire face: and hTully, 3 Tusc. cites Epicurus as a chiefe patron of this Tenent.
    • 1988 March 1, Caroni, Pico; Schwab, Martin E., “Antibody against myelin associated inhibitor of neurite growth neutralizes nonpermissive substrate properties of CNS white matter”, in Neuron[1], DOI:10.1016/0896-6273(88)90212-7, page 85:
      Monoclonal antibodies were raised against these proteins: IN-1 and IN-2 bound both to the 35 kd and 250 kd inhibitors and to the surface of differentiated cultured oligodendrocytes.
  15. In anticipation of; in preparation for (a particular time, event etc.).
    The stores are kept well stocked against a time of need.
    • 1603, Michel de Montaigne, chapter 11, in John Florio, transl., The Essayes [], book II, London: [] Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount [], OCLC 946730821:
      He wrote to a friend of his, that he lived but with browne bread and water, and entreated him to send him a piece of cheese, against [transl. pour] the time he was to make a solemne feast.
    • 1887, H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure[2]:
      "And now leave me, I pray thee, and thou too, my own Kallikrates, for I would get me ready against our journey, and so must ye both, and your servant also."
    • 2003, Rodger J. Bille, A Few of the Chosen: Survivors of Terrorism, Trafford Publishing →ISBN, page 8
      Rod, who always distrusted such methods, was forced to accept the new way but had begun to stash away large amounts of cash against the day that the system might be sabotaged or failed entirely.
  16. (Hollywood) To be paid now in contrast to the following amount to be paid later under specified circumstances, usually that a movie is made or has started filming.
    The studio weren't sure the movie would ever get made, so they only paid $50,000 against $200,000. That way they wouldn't be out very much if filming never began.
    • 2011, Charles Foran, Mordecai: The Life & Times[3]:
      “Hollywood noises” yielded an early $35,000 option against $100,000 if the movie was made.
  17. (obsolete) Exposed to. (Can we add an example for this sense?)



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  1. (obsolete) By the time that (something happened); before.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for VVilliam Ponsonbie, OCLC 960102938, book II, canto IX:
      Thence she them brought into a stately Hall, / Wherein were many tables faire dispred, / And ready dight with drapets festiuall, / Against the viaundes should be ministred.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, Folio Society 1973, p. 6:
      He now gave Mrs Deborah positive orders to take the child to her own bed, and to call up a maid-servant to provide it pap, and other things, against it waked.