Questions tagged [auto-antonyms]

Questions relating to words which are sometimes their own antonyms.

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Is there a term for a phrase in which an antonym can be switched-in and yet it still retains the same, or synonymous, meaning as the original?

For example, Based on/Based off, Break up/Break down, Write up/Write down, Up for/Down for, Went on/Went off, Slow up/Slow down These all retain similar meanings when substituting with antonyms. ...
Matt2infinity's user avatar
1 vote
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Brief / debrief, flammable / inflammable — is there a term for pairs of words that appear to be antonyms but aren't? [duplicate]

Is there a word for a pair of words that would appear to be antonyms from their construction, but actually have the same or similar meanings? For example, brief / debrief. From The Guardian: A ...
gerrit's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer

The contrasting meanings of the word "chill"

One meaning, the one that I've always known and thought about it when someone said the word "chill", was "very relaxed or easy going" with the example "in general, I am a pretty chill guy", as given ...
user 19's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer

term for a nickname composed of an auto-antonym

What is the term for a contradictory nickname such as "Tiny" for a very large person?
C. M. Vickrey's user avatar
10 votes
1 answer

Does "Irish goodbye" have two meanings which are almost the opposite of each other?

Urban Dictionary gives two almost opposite meanings of Irish goodbye Leaving quietly out the side door of a party or bar without saying goodbye to anyone. Mostly due to the fact that family or ...
Andrew Grimm's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer

Classification for phrases like "slim chance" and "fat chance" that look like opposites but have the same meaning

How is it that "slim chance" and "fat chance" have the same meaning? Is there a linguistic classification for this phenomenon of seemingly opposite phrases that have the same meaning?
John Wellings's user avatar
24 votes
4 answers

Why is the verb "dust" used in opposite forms?

When I dust my dresser, I am removing something from the dresser. When I dust a cake, I am adding something to the cake. How did this happen? I've heard of words taking different meanings during the ...
USER_8675309's user avatar
  • 1,625
4 votes
1 answer

Why does "eastwardly" have two opposite meanings?

"Eastwardly" can mean either from the east or to the east. How does one use it without ambiguity?
qazwsx's user avatar
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1 vote
2 answers

can nymous be used as an antonym of anonymous [closed]

What should I use as an antonym of anonymous ? is nymous a correct antonym of anonymous ?
Neel Basu's user avatar
  • 205
3 votes
1 answer

Words develop their opposite

I remember once hearing a theory--first promoted, I believe, by Freud--that words develop to mean their opposite, and that eventually the new, antithetical definition takes primacy. Cleave is a mid-...
Unrelated's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers

Etymology of "Utopia"; counterintuitive

How did the word "Utopia" (coined by Sir Thomas More) come to mean an ideal place when the Greek etymology specifically means "Not a place." Relatedly, while this might be the prime use of the word "...
Dutch's user avatar
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50 votes
9 answers

How did 'sanction' come to have two opposite meanings?

Sanction is an unusual ambiguous word to me. In some cases it means to approve some action, while in other cases it means to prohibit or punish some action; and there being near opposite meanings, ...
DuckMaestro's user avatar
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3 votes
3 answers

Why can "bill" mean (almost) opposite things?

Bill is somewhat of an auto-antonym, since it can mean either a piece of paper which has positive monetary value (i.e. a note), or a piece of paper which has negative monetary value (though it only ...
Daniel's user avatar
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14 votes
5 answers

How did "strike" get its baseball meaning?

Strike as an English word (meaning to hit) is certainly older than strike as a baseball term (meaning not to hit), so what puzzles me is that the word adopted for the action is the exact opposite of ...
yoozer8's user avatar
  • 8,750
16 votes
3 answers

Why the opposite meanings of the word “bollocks”?

The phrases the dog’s bollocks, the bee’s bollocks, and golden bollocks are used to mean something or someone excellent, fine, or well thought of. But if one were to say a load of bollocks, or ...
Brian Hooper's user avatar
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