More Words That Are Their Own Opposites

Contronyms 512px-Young_Woman_ThinkingHmmmm...

Would you eat at a restaurant if you had reservations?

We’ve talked about contronyms, or words that contradict themselves, before (here and here). The past posts racked up an amazing total of 25 self-contradictory words. You wouldn’t think there could be any more, but — tah-dah! —

click here for 16 more contronyms.

 I’m beginning to wonder how communication occurs with so many treacherous words.

Can you come up with any more?



Lexie Kahn: Word Snooper is a blog about words and their origins at
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4 Responses to More Words That Are Their Own Opposites

  1. lee says:

    this is a very formal example, but one I personally encountered. I was among a large group of Americans working for a Canadian company. To those of us over-educated in formalities like parliamentary procedure, we learn that “to table” is to set aside. However, in British-Canadian usage, “to table” means to raise for discussion

  2. habarlow says:

    This isn’t a single word, but a particular wording that I find to contranymic: “I don’t like him because he’s rich”. This can mean “I don’t like him; the reason is that he’s rich.” On the other hand, it can also mean, “I like him, but not because he’s rich.”

    • Thanks, Ms. Barlow. At first I thought your example was just an ambiguous sentence. I didn’t see the two meanings as contrary. But I see what you mean: in one interpretation I like him and in the other I don’t like him. They are contradictory.

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