contronym

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noun con·tro·nym \ ˈkän-trə-ˌnim \
variants: or contranym

Definition of contronym

plural contronyms or contranyms
: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 BrysonThe Mother Tongue1990
called also antagonym, autoantonym, Janus word

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First Known Use of contronym

1962


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