con·​tro·​nym | \ ˈkän-trə-ˌnim How to pronounce contronym (audio) \
variants: or contranym
plural contronyms or contranyms

Definition of contronym

: a word having two meanings that contradict one another Sometimes, just to heighten the confusion, the same word ends up with contradictory meanings. This kind of word is called a contronym. Sanction, for instance, can either signify permission to do something or a measure forbidding it to be done. Cleave can mean cut in half or stick together. A sanguine person is either hotheaded and bloodthirsty or calm and cheerful. Something that is fast is either stuck firmly or moving quickly.— Bill Bryson, The Mother Tongue, 1990

called also antagonym, autoantonym, Janus word

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First Known Use of contronym

1962, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of contronym was in 1962

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Cite this Entry

“Contronym.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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