Questions tagged [auto-antonyms]

Questions relating to words which are sometimes their own antonyms.

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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 ...
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1answer
234 views

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 ...
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1answer
212 views

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?
9
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1answer
1k views

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 ...
2
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1answer
927 views

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?
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4answers
4k views

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 ...
3
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1answer
216 views

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?
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2answers
2k views

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 ?
2
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1answer
953 views

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-...
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1answer
5k views

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 "...
35
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8answers
18k views

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, ...
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3answers
887 views

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 ...
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5answers
4k views

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 ...
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3answers
4k views

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 ...