Etymologie, Etimología, Étymologie, Etimologia, Etymology
US Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika, Estados Unidos de América, États-Unis d'Amérique, Stati Uniti d'America, United States of America
Contronym, Contrónimo, Contronyme, Contronimo, Contronym
75 Contronyms (Words with Contradictory Meanings)
By Mark Nichol
The English language includes an interesting category of words and phrases called "contronyms" (also spelled "contranyms", or referred to as "autoantonyms") — 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:
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.
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.
10 Verbs that are contronyms
14 Words That Are Their Own Opposites
Judith B Herman
Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, 'Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression' or does it mean, 'Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default'?
We’ve stumbled into the looking-glass world of "contronyms"—words that are their own antonyms.
A "synonym" is a word that means the same as another. "Necessary" and "required" are synonyms. An "antonym" is a word that means the opposite of another. "Wet" and "dry" are antonyms. While synonyms and antonyms are not in themselves interesting, the complexities and irregularities of the English language sometimes make synonyms and antonyms interesting to explore. Many complexities result from words having multiple definitions. A trivial example is a word with synonyms that aren't synonyms of each other, the word "beam", for example, having the synonyms "bar" and "shine". Similarly, some words have antonyms that are neither synonyms nor antonyms of each other but completely unrelated: the word "right", for example, having the antonyms "wrong" and "left".
A more interesting paradox occurs with the word "groom", which does not really have an antonym in the strictest sense but has an opposite of sorts in the word "bride", which can be used as a prefix to create a synonym, "bridegroom."
The word "contronym" (also "antagonym") is used to refer to words that, by some freak of language evolution, are their own antonyms. Both "contronym" and "antagonym" are neologisms; however, there is no alternative term that is more established in the English language.
Contronyms are special cases of homographs (two words with the same spelling).
Ein ganz alltägliches Beispiel zur Umkehr der Bedeutung eines Begriffs ist "Start". Ein Grossteil der Besucher des Etymologie-Portals benutzt vermutlich das Betriebssystem WINDOWS7. Um den PC zu stoppen bzw. herunterzufahren klickt man auf "Start" in der linken unteren Ecke.
Was it an oversight?
No, we never knew that "antagonyms" have previously been called "contronyms" until Mark Israel emailed us. Apparently the term "contronyms" was coined by Richard Lederer in Crazy English (Pocket Books, 1989, ISBN 0-671-68907-X). Mark has listed several dozen contronyms in the alt.usage.english FAQ (or link to it). We're proud to say we have some he didn't have!
One Word, Two Opposite Meanings
Terms That Janus Would Have Loved
February 02, 2015
One Word, Two Opposite Meanings: Terms That Janus Would Have Loved
I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on WORDMASTER: "two-faced words", also known as "Janus words" — after the Roman god with two faces looking in opposite directions — or contronyms.
RS: We are talking about a word that has developed two opposite meanings, explains linguist and author Richard Lederer.
RICHARD LEDERER: "We know that words over time, almost all words, especially nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, develop different meanings. And we have some words that have more than a hundred meanings. But "contronyms" develop opposite meanings. Take the word "out": just a three-letter word; sometimes an adverb, sometimes a preposition or a particle. When the sun is out, you can see it; when the lights are out, then you can't see them. So it is both visible and invisible."
- "Janus Words"
- "poke your head"
- "hold up"
- "keep up"
- "give out"
- "put out"
- "think better"
- "wind up"