English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am looking for a list of all English words that are their own antonyms. Off the top of my head, I can only think of "either", "fast", "to dust" and "to lease", but there must be dozens more. Can you provide a link to a comprehensive list, if such exists?

Also, what are such words most commonly called? I like the term "Janus word" I once heard, but is that widely understood?

Edited by popular demand to make it absolutely clear that this is not a community wiki poll.

share|improve this question

closed as too broad by curiousdannii, jimm101, Mari-Lou A, Jim, John Clifford Mar 14 at 13:30

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

@RegDwight: BTW, the Wikipedia list can also lose entries over time, or get deleted. :-) There are some people who go around on Wikipedia trying to get such lists deleted as "unencyclopedic" (mostly unsuccessfully so far). – ShreevatsaR Aug 27 '10 at 5:14
Is Contradictanym synonym to Auto-antonym? Can the term self-antonym be used? – Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин Feb 7 '11 at 13:33
I'm not sure if "ciao" and "aloha" have been noted yet, so I just wanted to make sure that they were. Each can be used both in greeting and farewell. – Hexagon Tiling Feb 29 '12 at 21:14
"cleave" is the first one that comes to mind, coming up in the text of certain wedding ceremonies. – cmcf Nov 25 '14 at 23:10
I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because 1. It asks for a list. 2. It should be split into multiple questions- (of course the list part would still be off topic, but the "what is the name for this type of word" part is perfectly valid.) – Jim Mar 14 at 0:58
up vote 27 down vote accepted

I think you're referring to Auto-antonyms. They are not the same word but a homograph (a word of the same spelling) that is also an antonym. I guess, Janus word is also acceptable.

There was a list on Wikipedia (List of Auto-antonyms in English), since moved to Wiktionary's Appendix of English contranyms.

share|improve this answer
Yet another piece of weirdness on Wikipedia, apparently "bolt" means "fixed", etc. – delete Aug 26 '10 at 13:15
"Bolt" as a verb can mean "to run away" or "to fix in place (using a bolt)". – AlexC Oct 31 '10 at 0:41
+1 for this extensive list – Alain Pannetier Φ Mar 17 '11 at 23:37
And I just came across this nice cartoon featuring candid dinosaurs. – Alain Pannetier Φ Apr 3 '11 at 9:30
@Alexc I recall a photo (in Mad Magazine?) many decades ago, of a guy being told "Don't bolt your food!" - He was, of course, doing it with a wrench. – mickeyf Sep 13 '11 at 14:22

There are several names for these. "Contradictanym" is one you see in a few places. There's another list of several examples here: http://toothycat.net/wiki/wiki.pl?Contradictanym

share|improve this answer
What is the opposite of a Contradictanym? A word that doesn't contradict itself? – Jared Updike Oct 28 '10 at 22:28

Another word for it is ‘contranym’. Two types can be distinguished. There are those known as doublets, which have a common etymology, such as ‘fast’. Then there are those which are quite separate words that happen to be spelt the same way, such as ‘cleave’.

share|improve this answer

protected by RegDwigнt Mar 25 '12 at 11:00

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.