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There are several words which have contradictory meanings. They may have one meaning now, and have had a different meaning in the past. For example, the current definition of peruse is:

to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner

However, the older definition (which is still included in the Merriam Webster entry) is:

to examine or consider with attention and in detail

Is there a name for these pairs of words which have contradictory meanings? One site names them antagonyms, but is this widely known and used? Or is there another term?

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3 Answers 3

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The only term I'd heard for these was contronym. This site lists both as neologisms for this type of word, but notes that no more established term exists.

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  • I'm accepting your answer because it gave "contronym", which led me to be able to find even more terms and information about the phenomena. Please see my self-answer for other terms.
    – user10893
    Aug 7, 2011 at 3:52
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Thanks to the answer left by @Dusty, I was led to the following terms for this phenomenon in a Wikipedia article. None are long-established terms, but the list for reference is:

  • auto-antonym
  • Janus word
  • enantiodrome
  • self-antonym
  • antilogy
  • addad

These terms are all fairly recent, as the Wikipedia article continues:

The terms "autantonym" and "contronym" were originally coined by Joseph T. Shipley in 1960 and Jack Herring in 1962, respectively. A related term, pseudo-contronym, was coined by David Morice in 1987.

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  • +1: Nice answer to your own question! You are a self-learner.
    – Daniel
    Sep 24, 2011 at 18:36
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This comic is extremely relevant:

http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=1104

It proposes:

"Homographic Homophonic Autantonyms"

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