I'm talking about words like 'comfortable' (the chair is comfortable, or, I am comfortable in the chair) and 'curious' (it is a curious painting, or, I am curious about that painting). So, is there an official term for such words or expressions? (An example of such an EXPRESSION would be 'make a short list' (to be considered a prime candidate by a prospective employer, or, to make a list of employment opportunities to explore in detail later).


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Some people consider such words auto-antonyms or contronyms. The words you mention are, in fact, a particular kind of auto-antonyms as they can be used to reflect an opposition in terms of subject-object/object-subject relationship. For example, while "buy" and "sell" are antonyms, "rent" is ambiguous as it can be used in both directions ("bidirectional" or "two-sided" would be a good description for this kind of words). As a matter of fact:

  • I'm renting this apartment

may mean that "I" is the landlord or the tenant.

Another example is the verb "smell":

  • I smell the rose. (I experience the smell of the rose)

  • The rose smells nice. (The rose produces the smell I perceive)

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