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?


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. – simchona Aug 7 '11 at 3:52

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 '11 at 18:36

This comic is extremely relevant:


It proposes:

"Homographic Homophonic Autantonyms"

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