One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A word with two opposite meanings, e.g. sanction (which can mean both ‘a penalty for disobeying a law’ and ‘official permission or approval for an action’).
- ‘Using a contronym requires the listener's knowing which of its meanings applies.’
- ‘In the special case of contronyms, the polysemous terms contain two opposite meanings.’
- ‘For my part, I try to avoid words that lead to confusion like this; that's why I proscribe the usage of contranyms.’
- ‘Certainly, many of these contronyms are part of idiomatic expressions.’
- ‘I'm not sure if this would be a pure contranym because the two phrases don't necessarily oppose each other.’
1960s: blend of contra- and -onym, on the pattern of synonym and antonym.
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