02 February 2020

When Opposites Repel


Leigh Lundin
Contronyms

Recently, we brought you an outrageous example of those Brexit colonialists claiming North Americans misuse ‘nonplussed’ to mean ‘unperturbed’ rather than ‘confused surprise’. Hmmph.

Thus nonplussed, I brought in the legendary James Lincoln Warren to sort out the word ‘belie’ in the same article. Today, we hope to render you further nonplussed with a list of forty dastardly contronyms, words with opposite meanings. Let’s have at it.

The ⇆ Glossary

belie
The subject gives lie to the object; the object gives lie to the subject.
bill
Having money (currency); owing money or seeking money owed.
bolt
To flee; to hold together.
bound
Head toward a destination, restrained from heading anywhere.
buckle
To fasten or join together; to collapse under pressure.
citation
Praising an act; issuing summons for an illegal act.
cleave
To adhere together; to split apart.
clip
To fasten together with a paperclip; to detach with shears.
consult
To seek advice; to give advice.
custom
A common practice; a unique bespoke item.
dust
To apply a fine power; to remove fine powder.
either
One or the other; both (original meaning; i.e, surrounded on either side).
enjoin
To order someone to act; to prohibit someone from acting.
fast
Firmly fixed, unmovable; unattached and able to move quickly.
finished
Completed; wrecked, destroyed.
garnish
To add or enhance (foods); to seize or withhold (wages).
handicap
An advantage to equalize (golf); disadvantage rendering equality difficult.
lease
To rent property; to offer property for rent.
leave
To remove oneself from a location; to be left behind in a location.
left
Departed; remained behind.
literally
Precisely and concretely; figuratively (through misuse).
model
Original upon which others are based; a copy.
off
Not operating (i.e, lights went off); operating (alarm went off).
original
A fresh idea; an old notion.
out
Visible (stars are out); invisible (lights are out).
Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
Overseeing Lookout Mountain
© courtesy Town of
Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
overlook
See to; fail to see.
refrain
To repeat an action; to not perform an action at all.
peruse
To skim; to read carefully (original meaning).
ravel
To separate; to become entangled.
rent
To lease; to offer property for lease.
sanction
To approve an act; to punish an act.
screen
To hide, obscure; to show (a film).
seed
To add seed (to a lawn); to remove seed (from a melon).
strike
To hit; to not hit (a baseball).
transparent
Invisible; obvious.
trim
To add (decorations). to remove (hair).
variety
A particular type; many types.
wear
To endure; to deteriorate.
weather
To withstand or endure; to be worn away.
Note: I have not included word combinations and phrases such as ‘back up’, ‘hold up’, ‘go off’, ‘out of’, ‘throw out’, and ‘wound up’ that can imply their own opposites.

Confused? My job’s complete. Can you think of others?

7 comments:

O'Neil De Noux said...

Good listing. Read it early this morning before coffee and had to read it again later after coffee to feel the full effect. I like this list.

Robert Lopresti said...

In most parliamentary systems "table" means introduce a bill. In the U.S. it means set the bill aside.

Your list also relates to question 3 on this quiz. https://criminalbrief.com/?p=13887

R.T. Lawton said...

Leigh, interesting list. I have enough trouble getting the proper English language use as it is. No wonder foreigners have a hard time learning the rules.

John Floyd said...

Great list. I'm not sure what category these would fall into, but filling in a form is the same as filling it out, a fat chance and a slim chance are the same, a wise man and a wise guy are opposites, and when I wind up my watch I start it but when I wind up this comment I finish it. Makes you feel sad for folks who have to learn English as a second language.

Leigh Lundin said...

Thanks, O'Neil. You're one hearty guy on a Sunday morning.

Good point, Rob. I revisited the golden oldie you suggest. Good lists.

Thanks, RT. I have no idea how to classify flammable/inflammable. In that case, the Latin 'in' is used as an intensifier. Not to be inflammatory, that would make inflammable more flammable than ordinary flammable. So to speak.

Eve Fisher said...

This is why it's so hard to learn another language after childhood, unless you have the special polyglot gift.

Leigh Lundin said...

Amen, Eve. The more I learn about languages, they trickier they become.