Word Nerds: Contronyms
I was quite chuffed, having received quite a positive response from my Kangaroo Words post.
And there it was—another strange lexiconical usage of a word. You see “chuffed” (British slang) can mean one is pleased or displeased. It becomes its own antonym. These words are known as “contronyms.”
Here’s a list to get a better idea:
bolt – to secure; to run away
cleave – separate, adhere
clip – fasten, detach
custom- usual, special
dust – add fine particles, remove fine particles
enjoin – prescribe, prohibit
fast – quick, unmoving
fix – restore, castrate
garnish – enhance (e.g., food), curtail (e.g., wages)
give out – produce, stop production
handicap – advantage, disadvantage
left – remaining, departed from
mean – average, excellent (e.g., “plays a mean game”)
out – visible (e.g., stars), invisible (e.g., lights)
put out – extinguish, generate (e.g., something putting out light)
quite – rather, completely
ravel – tangle, disentangle
sanction – approve, boycott
screen – show, hide
table – propose (in the United Kingdom), set aside (in the United States)
unbending – rigid, relaxing
weather – withstand, wear away
Talk about shades of ambiguity! Then again it keeps people on their toes to pay closer attention to the context to better understand the content.
I had never heard this term before but had thought about the concept a few times. Interesting, Pam!
It’s fun finding there exists an actual term for these word situations!