I'm aware that 'peruse' might be considered a contranym. RHK Webster's lists the contrasting senses in the order:

  1. to read through with thoroughness or care: to peruse a report.

  2. to read in an often desultory way.

From the AHDEL usage note at the link, the Webster's sense 1 is the traditionally accepted one, but the second sense is growing in popularity and acceptability.

Recently a friend of mine (who tutors students for the SAT and GRE) said that there was another equally cool word, say W, whose 'non-traditional' definition is the 'opposite' of 'non-traditional' peruse and whose traditional definition is the 'opposite' of traditional peruse. That is, W's original and primary sense is "to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner" but its increasingly common ("informal") definition is "to examine or consider with attention and in detail".

Does anyone know what the word W is?

  • 1
    'Scan' also has the dual senses. From AHDEL (with reformatting): scan v.tr. 1a. To look at carefully or thoroughly, especially in search of something; examine: The sailor scanned the horizon for signs of land. b. To look over quickly or read hastily: I scanned the newspaper while eating breakfast. >> However, none of AHDEL, Collins and RHK Webster's consider either sense informal, and all consider the 'scrutinise' sense the principal one. // Would you mind if I edited your question? Jul 14, 2016 at 23:11
  • While I doubt many use it, 'curse' is used here. (our custom verb of cursory). Go with scan.
    – user116032
    Jul 15, 2016 at 3:29
  • 1
    @sumelic W is just a place holder and doesn't necessarily mean it starts with W
    – Squirtle
    Jul 15, 2016 at 17:01
  • @EdwinAshworth I don't mind if you edit the question so long as the edit doesn't stray from my original question.
    – Squirtle
    Jul 15, 2016 at 17:05
  • @Squirtle ~ Does your friend not know the answer either, or is he playing games with you? ;) just curious
    – user180089
    Jul 15, 2016 at 17:09

1 Answer 1


look (something) over (informal)


to examine something carefully

look over (something) (formal)

Cambridge Dictionary

to quickly examine something

The difference in formality seems to be the placement of the something in the phrase. To look over something seems like what you'd say in a professional setting (e.g. "Look over these files"), but to look something over seems more casual.


look-over (formal)

Oxford English dictionaries

(noun) A quick inspection of something

As for the informal variant of 'look-over', I suppose it would be possible to use it in a context of an in-depth inspection of something ("Give it a look-over"). But I don't think there would be an official source for that.

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