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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.

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  • @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). Aug 27, 2010 at 5:14
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    Is Contradictanym synonym to Auto-antonym? Can the term self-antonym be used? Feb 7, 2011 at 13:33
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    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. Feb 29, 2012 at 21:14
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    "cleave" is the first one that comes to mind, coming up in the text of certain wedding ceremonies.
    – cmcf
    Nov 25, 2014 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, 2016 at 0:58

3 Answers 3

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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.

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  • Yet another piece of weirdness on Wikipedia, apparently "bolt" means "fixed", etc.
    – delete
    Aug 26, 2010 at 13:15
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    "Bolt" as a verb can mean "to run away" or "to fix in place (using a bolt)".
    – AlexC
    Oct 31, 2010 at 0:41
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    And I just came across this nice cartoon featuring candid dinosaurs. Apr 3, 2011 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. Sep 13, 2011 at 14:22
  • Also in the list of auto-antonyms, they forgot to include the dash, which can mean "add" (e.g., the shopping list note, "buy candy - chocolate bars, and suckers") or "subtract" (e.g., "5 - 3 = 2"). Mar 13, 2012 at 3:50
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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

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    What is the opposite of a Contradictanym? A word that doesn't contradict itself? Oct 28, 2010 at 22:28
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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’.

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