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>Self opposite

>I find it interesting that the same word can have opposite meanings. It just goes to show that it is context that determines meaning. I can think of 2 words in English.

Cleave: join together and separate
Chilli/chilly: hot and cold

Are there others?

Categories: linguistics
  1. Starwind
    2007 November 20 at 13:30

    These are called contronyms (a neologism).
    “Cleave” is a good example.
    Personally, I think very, very few words qualify properly as “contronyms” as their meanings are abused or a noun is contrasted with a verb (which are different words in actuality).
    For example from the above list, IMO, only the following consistently qualify in addition to cleave:
    “garnish” (add to) food vs garnish (withhold) wages
    “weather” (withstand) the storm vs weather (wear down) the finish
    “screen” (to show) a movie vs screen (conceal) a hunter

  2. 2007 November 21 at 09:50

    I agree, several examples are to do with what is being done and are not intrinsically opposite. I had in mind the idea that a sentence could say one thing and then changing a couple of words the opposite because of the new context.
    While these are not too common in English I have heard they are very common in Hebrew.

  3. Flipside
    2007 November 22 at 09:16

    If you double $20 what do you get?
    What about the other way, flammable and inflammable mean the same thing

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