Definition of contronym in English:


(also contranym)


  • 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’).

    • ‘I'm not sure if this would be a pure contranym because the two phrases don't necessarily oppose each other.’
    • ‘For my part, I try to avoid words that lead to confusion like this; that's why I proscribe the usage of contranyms.’
    • ‘In the special case of contronyms, the polysemous terms contain two opposite meanings.’
    • ‘Using a contronym requires the listener's knowing which of its meanings applies.’
    • ‘Certainly, many of these contronyms are part of idiomatic expressions.’


1960s: blend of contra- and -onym, on the pattern of synonym and antonym.