For example a water fall with a name of dry falls?

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    Your title makes it sound like you're talking about a single word that means the opposite of what it describes. But your example is about two words, one which is the opposite of the other. Which is it that you want? The latter is a 'contradiction in terms' or an 'oxymoron'. The former is 'heterological'.
    – Mitch
    Jan 26, 2017 at 14:47
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    Possible duplicate of What is the name of a word that doesn't mean what it says?
    – Hank
    Jan 26, 2017 at 16:16
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    In addition to what Mitch said: I can’t tell whether you are asking for examples of such words (or phrases?) or names for this category of word. Jan 26, 2017 at 20:16
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    Inflammable means flammable? What a country!
    – 000
    Jan 26, 2017 at 20:44
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    Would "monosyllabic" fall into the category you're asking about?
    – Ray
    Jan 27, 2017 at 0:49

3 Answers 3


Oxymoron may fit

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory, but which contain a concealed point.

But be aware that with names of geographical features there may be a reference to a seasonal feature which makes a term appear oxymoronic. Dry Falls could well be a feature on a temporary or intermittent river.

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    you mean like...'military intelligence' or the hotel near to my home here in Southeast Asia calling itself the 'Royal President'. Jan 26, 2017 at 14:32

Consider contronym (also antagonynm) — Rinkworks.com

The word contronym (also antagonym) is used to refer to words that, by some freak of language evolution, are their own antonyms. Both contronym and antagonym are neologisms; however, there is no alternative term that is more established in the English language.

Contronyms are special cases of homographs (two words with the same spelling). Some examples:

consult - ask for advice, give advice
sanction - approve, boycott
seed - add seeds (e.g., "to seed a field"), remove seeds (e.g., "to seed a tomato")

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    My favorite is the verb "to table", which means one thing in American English, and the exact opposite in British English, leading to a heated (possibly apocryphal) debate between planners of those two countries during WW2 over whether or not to table an important matter.
    – neminem
    Jan 26, 2017 at 23:58
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    Another is the verb "rent": "to grant the possession and enjoyment of (property, machinery, etc.) in return for the payment of rent from the tenant or lessee", "to take and hold (property, machinery, etc.) in return for the payment of rent to the landlord or owner."
    – JoL
    Jan 27, 2017 at 2:05
  • Latin has a couple of those: altus (high; deep), fides (faith; fidelity), and probably more. It's like a single word for a mutual relationship. One can see why the Romans used a single word to describe the property of a cliff, independent of the viewpoint. It's similar to to rent and your example of to consult. Jan 27, 2017 at 10:26
  • "Cleave" is another word that has synonyms that are antonyms of each other, it means both "adhere to" and "separate" :) Jan 27, 2017 at 14:44

An oxymoron (usual plural oxymorons, less commonly the Greek-style oxymora):

is a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory, but which contain a concealed point.Oxymorons appear in a variety of contexts, including inadvertent errors (such as "ground pilot") and literary oxymorons crafted to reveal a paradox.

  • And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.


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