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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Writing – editing – Contranyms

I always puzzled over the word ‘sanction’ – how it has two meanings, quite opposite, and recently encountered contranyms, of which this word is an example.

This interesting category of words and phrases (contronyms, also spelled contranyms, or referred to as autoantonyms) are terms that, depending on context, can have opposite or contradictory meanings.

When you use these words, be sure the context clearly identifies which meaning is intended.

There are more than listed here – a quite comprehensive list of 75 have been selected by Mark Nichol and shown in his blog:

Bill: A payment, or an invoice for payment
Bolt: To secure, or to flee
Bound: Heading to a destination, or restrained from movement
Buckle: To connect, or to break or collapse
Cleave: To adhere, or to separate
Consult: To offer advice, or to obtain it
Dust: To add fine particles, or to remove them
Fast: Quick, or stuck or made stable
Finished: Completed, or ended or destroyed
First degree: Most severe in the case of a murder charge, or least severe in reference to a burn
Handicap: Advantage provided to ensure equality, or disadvantage that prevents equal achievement
Hold up: To support, or to impede
Lease: To offer property for rent, or to hold such property
Left: Remained, or departed
Let: Allowed, or hindered
Literally: Actually, or virtually
Model: An exemplar, or a copy
Off: Deactivated, or activated, as an alarm
Out: Visible, as with stars showing in the sky, or invisible, in reference to lights
Overlook: To supervise, or to neglect
Oversight: Monitoring, or failing to oversee
Peer: A person of the nobility, or an equal
Put out: Extinguish, or generate
Refrain: To desist from doing something, or to repeat
Rock: An immobile stone or a shaking or unsettling movement or action
Sanction: To approve, or to boycott
Screen: To present, or to conceal
Seed: To sow seeds, or to shed or remove them
Splice: To join, or to separate
Temper: To soften, or to strengthen
Transparent: Invisible, or obvious
Trim: To decorate, or to remove excess from
Trip: A journey, or a stumble
Unbending: Rigid, or relaxing
Variety: A particular type, or many types
Wear: To endure, or to deteriorate
Weather: To withstand, or to wear away
Wind up: To end, or to start up

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