Tag Archives: contronyms



I needed to use the word “sanction” the other day and thought about how it has two opposite meanings (a contronym): A sanction means approving of something (asking a boss to sanction your project) or sanctioning by boycotting (as in sanctioning certain companies that take positions you do not agree with).

The word “cleave” is similarly a contronym, meaning to stick to something (The toddler cleaved to her mother’s arm) and also to split or sever (Pioneers needed to cleave logs to keep their cabins warm).

Here are some more contronyms on a list from this source: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/06/contronyms/

dustto remove dust. to cover with dust.

hystericalfrightened and out of control. funny.

nervyshowing nerve or courage. excitable and volatile.

mootdebatable. not worth debating. (Pronounced as spelled, not as MUTE)

fastmoving quickly. solid and unable to move.

seedto sow seeds. to remove seeds.

weatherto withstand a storm. to wear away.

screento show, e.g., a film. to hide something.

boundfastened to a spot. heading for somewhere.

apologyan expression of regret for something. a defense or justification of something.

striketo hit. to miss (in baseball).

I love being a word nerd.

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