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tony

3rd November 2008, 20:21
There is only one word in the english language that can mean the opposite of itself.6 letters
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royston bowden

4th November 2008, 13:44
Tony,


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Autoantonyms
If you have read our antonyms page, you will know that two words with opposite meanings are called antonyms. So autoantonyms are words that are the opposite of themselves!
Auto-antonym has Greek roots meaning a word that is the opposite of itself. They have variously been called contranyms, contronyms, antilogies, Janus words (after the two-faced Greek mythical figure, from which "January" also derives), and enantiodromes.

Below is a list af many such words, and their associated opposite (or near-opposite) meanings. See the bottom of the page for an explanation of how such contradictory meanings can come about.

adumbrate
verb • to clarify
• to cast a shadow over
aught
noun • anything
• nothing
bill
noun • invoice (e.g. in a restaurant)
• money; banknote
bolt
verb • to secure in place
• to dash away suddenly
bound
adj./verb • restrained (e.g. by rope)
• to spring; leap
buckle
verb • to fasten
• to come undone; give way; collapse
cleave
verb • to adhere; stick together
• to cut apart; divide
clip
verb • to fasten together; hold tightly
• to cut apart; cut off (e.g. with shears)
comprise
verb • to contain; include
• to be composed of; consist of
custom
adjective • usual; normal
• special; unique
dust
verb • to remove fine particles from (e.g. when cleaning)
• to sprinkle fine particles onto
fast
adverb • fixed firmly in place
• moving quickly; speedy
fine
adjective • just meets minimum standards; satisfactory
• considerably better than average; excellent
give out
verb • to produce; distribute
• to stop producing; cease functioning
handicap
noun/verb • advantage (e.g. in sport)
• disadvantage; disability
hold up
verb • to support; cope
• to hinder; delay
impregnable
adjective • impossible to enter (e.g. of a fortress)
• able to be impregnated
lease
verb • to lend; rent out
• to borrow; hire
left
verb • departed from
• remaining
let
verb • to allow; grant permission
• to prevent (e.g. "without let or hindrance")
literally
adverb • actually; really
• figuratively; virtually
model
noun • archetype; example
• copy; replica
moot
adjective • debatable; arguable
• academic; irrelevant
overlook
verb • to examine; watch over
• to fail to notice; miss
oversight
noun • watchful care; supervision
• overlooking; omission
peer
noun • an equal; fellow (e.g. classmate)
• a nobleman; person of higher rank
put
adj./verb • to begin to move hurriedly
• stationary (e.g. "stay put")
put out
verb • to generate; produce
• to extinguish; put an end to
puzzle
verb • to pose a problem
• to solve a problem
quantum
adjective • very small (e.g. in Physics)
• very large (e.g. "quantum leap")
ravel
verb • to tangle; complicate
• to disentangle; separate
rent
verb • to lend; lease out
• to borrow; hire
resign
verb • to quit; give up
• to sign up again
root
verb • to remove completely
• to become firmly established
sanction
verb/noun • to endorse; authorise
• a punitive action
sanguine
adjective • murderous
• cheerfully optimistic
scan
verb • to examine closely
• to glance at hastily
screen
verb • to view; show
• to conceal; shield
seed
verb • to remove seeds from
• to add seeds to
set
verb • to fix in place
• to flow; move on
shank
noun • latter part of a period of time
• early part of a period of time
skin
verb • to cover with a skin
• to remove the skin
splice
verb • to join together
• to cut in two
strike
verb • to miss (e.g. in baseball)
• to hit; collide with
table
verb • to propose; suggest
• to postpone; shelve
temper
verb • to soften; mollify
• to strengthen (e.g. a metal)
trim
verb • to cut pieces off (e.g. fingernails)
• to add to; ornament
weather
verb • to withstand; stand up to
• to wear away
wind up
verb • to start; prepare
• to end; conclude



The Origin of Autoantonyms
Bob Fradkin explains how one of the major classes of auto-antonym comes about:

Dust is part of a series of noun-verb conversions related to coverings of things. If the noun gives a covering that is natural to the thing, then the verb means remove the covering. If the covering is imposed, the verb means put the covering on.
So you get shell an egg, peel a banana, but paint the furniture, wax the floor.

Dust is interesting because it can go either way: dust the furniture (a sort of natural covering to be removed) vs. dust the crops (put stuff on them that they didn't have and wouldn't unless humans put it there). I mentioned this in my English grammar book Stalking the Wild Verb Phrase.

Related page:






What is an antonym?

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R.
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tony

5th November 2008, 14:06
Thankyou,just goes to show how little I know and how much to learn.The word I was told of was cleave.
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royston bowden

5th November 2008, 14:17
Tony,

I was puzzled at first but then accidentally came across the web site 'fun-with-words.com'. Annoying 'you have won boxes' come up at first but the site seems well worth a look.

Regards

Royston.
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