The words "catholic" and "parochial" are synonyms or near-synonyms meaning "pertaining to the Catholic Church" (e.g., a parochial school is a Catholic school) but they're antonyms in a different sense; one means "universal" and the other means "local" or "provincial." Are there any other word pairs that are synonyms in one meaning but antonyms in another?

I'm excluding words that can be their own opposites; there are lots of questions about those, and lots of examples. Here I'm asking about distinct pairs of meanings.

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    No, "catholic" and "parochial" are not synonyms or near-synonyms -- NARQ. – Kris Dec 30 '12 at 15:02

From OED:

catholic, adj. and n.

a. Catholic Church, Church Catholic: the Church universal, the whole body of Christians.


parochial, adj. and n.

a. Of or belonging to an ecclesiastical parish.

The question's basis is wrong - parochial and catholic are not both "pertaining to the Catholic Church", as parochial means "pertaining to the parish".

Indeed, the parish does not even have to be RC. Back to OED:

Parochial Church Council n. Anglican Church (also with lower-case initials) the ruling body of a parish.

1920 (title) The National Assembly of the Church of England: Parochial Church Councils.
2002 Church Times 18 Jan. 2/2 The select vestries of Trim and Athboy, roughly the equivalent of English parochial church councils, passed resolutions at their meetings on Monday and Tuesday.


parochial school n. Chiefly Sc. and N. Amer. a school established and maintained by a religious body

  • Your examples suggest a difference between US and UK usage. The examples with the Anglican Church don't occur in the US, and here a "parochial school" is a Catholic school. However, it's possible that Louisiana, which calls its counties parishes, has secular "parochial" schools. – gmcgath Dec 30 '12 at 14:35
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    @gmcgath While a "parochial school" may have been set up by the Catholic Church, it's called parochial because it's the parish's school, not that of the Church at large. And it would be the same with civil parishes. I believe the question's premise is wrong, or at least misdirected with this particular example. – Andrew Leach Dec 30 '12 at 14:47
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    @gmcgath ~ my example - parochial school n. Chiefly Sc. and N. Amer. a school established and maintained by a religious body. A religious body does not mean Catholic, it can be any religion, and I believe North America includes the USA? – Roaring Fish Dec 30 '12 at 14:51

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