Posted by: episystechpubs | April 3, 2013

Editor’s Corner: Are you calling them two-faced?

Over the past year, I’ve received questions, poems, articles, and samples containing contronyms. What is a contronym? A contronym is a word that is its own opposite. For example, the word dust. You dust French toast with powdered sugar (adding tiny particles). You dust your bookcase with a rag (to remove tiny particles).

There are several other names for this sort of word, including contranym, auto-antonym, antagonym, self-anytonym, and my favorite: Janus word. (This from the Roman god Janus: god of beginnings, transitions, gates, passages, etc. The month January was named to honor him. He is usually represented with two faces: one face looking into the future, and the other face looking into the past.)

Now for some of the words! These are compiled from the articles “14 Words That Are Their Own Opposites,” by Judith B. Herman, and “75 Contronyms” at Daily Writing Tips. A big “thank you” to Chris Aston for guiding me to these resources!

1. Aught: All, or nothing

2. Bolt: To secure, or to flee

3. Buckle: To connect, or to break or collapse

4. Cleave: To adhere, or to separate

5. Consult: To offer advice, or to obtain it

6. Dollop: A large amount (British English), or a small amount

7. Enjoin: To impose, or to prohibit

8. Fast: Quick, or stuck or made stable

9. Finished: Completed, or ended or destroyed

10. Fix: To repair, or to castrate

11. Flog: To promote persistently, or to criticize or beat

12. Garnish: To furnish, as with food preparation, or to take away, as with wages

13. Handicap: An advantage provided to ensure equality, or a disadvantage that prevents equal achievement

14. Lease: To offer property for rent, or to hold such property

15. Left: Remained, or departed

16. Model: An exemplar, or a copy

17. Out: Visible, as with stars showing in the sky, or invisible, in reference to lights

18. Oversight: Monitoring, or failing to oversee

19. Puzzle: A problem, or to solve one

20. Quantum: Significantly large, or a minuscule part

21. Refrain: To desist from doing something, or to repeat

22. Sanction: To approve, or to boycott

23. Skin: To cover, or to remove

24. Splice: To join, or to separate

25. Strike: To hit, or to miss in an attempt to hit

26. Transparent: Invisible, or obvious

27. Trim: To decorate, or to remove excess from

28. Trip: A journey, or a stumble

29. Variety: A particular type, or many types

30. Weather: To withstand, or to wear away

Coin of Janus, from the Roman Republic

Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor

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