List of auto-antonyms in English

This is a list of auto-antonyms in English -- that is, words which in and of themselves have two or more generally accepted meanings in the English language that directly or generally contradict each other. Such words are also known as antagonyms, contronyms, and words having self-contradictions. Many such contradefinitions arise from slang usage. Others develop as a result of their frequent use in sarcasm.
There are two forms of contranyms: homographic, where two words with the same spelling can have opposing definitions; and homophonic, where two words with the same pronunciation can have opposing definitions. In general, the terms below are both homographic and homophonic contranyms.
Richard Lederer included a list of self-contradicting words in a chapter on Janus-faced words in his book Crazy English.
T-Rex in the November 2nd, 2007 edition of Dinosaur Comics describes this class of words as homographic homophonic autantonyms.
; adumbrate : (1) to disclose (2) to obscure
; ambivalent : (1) holding two strong contradictory feelings (2) having no strong feeling
; anabasis : (1) a military advance (2) a difficult and dangerous military retreat
; apology : (1) an admission of error accompanied by a plea for forgiveness (2) a formal defense or justification (as in Plato's Apology), also referred to as an apologia
; awful : (1) originally used as a term to mean full of awe, even better than awesome (2) now means something exceptionally bad
; bad : (1) not good in any manner or degree. ; (2) Slang . outstandingly excellent; first-rate
; boned : (1) an adjective describing bones (as in "big-boned"); (2) an adjective, based on the past tense of the verb "bone", meaning that bones have been removed (as in a "boned chicken," now commonly "deboned").
; bolt : (1) to secure; (2) to run away
; bound : (1) "going", as in college-bound or hellbound, from Germanic buan; (2) past tense of "bind"; held in place, not going at all, from Germanic bintan.
; buckle : (1) to secure, tighten, hold (by fastening with a buckle); (2) to collapse after being acted upon by an external force, as in "to buckle under the strain"
; chuffed : In British slang this has come to mean "pleased", synonymous to "puffed up"; an older definition, also colloquial is "displeased, upset". Specifically, "chuff" is the sound of exhaust being emanated, as from a train engine.
; cleave : This is a homophone, where two words, spelled and pronounced alike, have different origins. (1) "To adhere firmly", from Old English clifian. (2) to split (as with a cleaver), from Old English cleofan
; clip : This is a homophone. (1) "to clasp or fasten with a clip", is from Anglo-Saxon clyppan. (2) "to cut or cut off" (with clippers or scissors) is from Old Norse klippa.
; confessor: Normally refers to someone (such as a priest) who hears a confession, but could also mean one who makes it.
; continue : The verb continue means "to keep doing"; however the noun form continuation, in legal usage, means "to pick up later", particularly in the form continuance.
; cool : In commonly accepted slang, cool means happy, pleasant, agreeable; but when referring to a personal interaction, especially in politics, it usually means "less than agreeable" or "polite but strained" (he received a cool reception to his speech).
; custom : As a noun, this means "conventional behavior"; but as an adjective, it means "specially designed".
; discursive : In essay structure, it can mean either to be rambling or freeform (American usage), but also can mean to be strictly structured (British usage).
; disposed : As a past tense verb, disposed means "removed" or "gotten rid of"; as an adjective; disposed means "available".
; dollop : "Dollop" can mean "a large amount" or "a small amount" depending on its usage.
; downhill : When referring to difficulty, it means "progressively easier"; but when referring to status or condition, it means "progressively worse".
; hardly: Either just barely, or with extreme power
; heat sink: Something that either retains heat (an urban heat island), or something that dissipates heat (an electronic component)
; hew : "To separate" as well as "to stick (to)" (when used with "to"); cf. "cleave" above.
; if not: Though not a single word this phrase can mean (1) though not ("attractive if not pretty"), or (2) or even ("attractive if not beautiful"). The usage is often ambiguous.
; impassionate : (1) Strongly affected. (2) Without passion or feeling.
; invaluable: adjective that can either mean priceless or worthless
; knowledge : The phrase "to my knowledge" is used in two opposite ways. In earlier usage, it means "I know this for certain". In the later usage, it is a shorthand for "to the best of my knowledge", which means "I do not know this for certain".
; lease : To lend or to borrow.
; left : As a past tense verb, it means "to have gone"; as an adjective; it means "remaining".
; let : As a verb usually means "allow"; in an older (but not obsolete) sense it means "prevent".
; literally : Typically taken to mean "actually", as contrasted with "figuratively". Can informally be taken to mean "virtually" or to emphasize something which is not literal.
; livid : Discolored as from a bruise or ashen with shock or dull blue or grayish-blue; reddish or flushed or enraged or furiously angry
; lurid : Can mean either pale and bland or vividly descriptive.
; mind : Can mean to dislike or to disagree with, as in "Would you mind (dislike) helping me for a minute?"; or it can mean to give heed to or obey, as in "mind what I say".
; momentarily : In British usage, means "only for a brief moment" but may be in the past or present- the lightning lit the room momentarily. In American usage, means "soon" but may be persistent.
; moot : Formerly and more acceptably meaning "open for discussion, debatable," it is now more commonly used to mean "irrelevant to discussion or debate."
; off : Generally, something being off means it is not operating; however when an alarm goes off, it means it has started operating (or when a person goes off, it means they have become very agitated).
; original : Original recipe, Original idea, Original furniture : New and freshly conceived, or ancient, staid and preserved?
; out : Similar to off, to take something out means to remove it; but to bring something out is to exhibit it prominently. For instance saying that "the lights are out" means they are not shining, but saying 'the stars are out" means they are easily visible.
; outstanding : Exceptional, prominent, excellent; but also unsettled, unresolved, overdue.
; oversight : When used as a general concept, this word is the noun form of oversee, which means "to manage and be in charge of". But when used to refer to a specific incident, it becomes the noun form of overlook, meaning "error" or lapse in proper management.
; pitch : To discard. Also, to promote. A headline from the edition of January 6, 2009, reading "Obama Pitches Stimulus Plan" is ambiguous, though the "promote" meaning is intended.
; pitted : As with fruit (e.g. cherries) "pitted" can mean "with" or "without" the pit.
; presently : Its older meaning is "immediately"; its contemporary meaning is "in a while".
; protest : means speaking for something e.g. "protest peace"; its contemporary meaning is to speak against something e.g. "protest the war" means "protest against the war".
; qualified : Can mean "limited" (as in "qualified success") or "skilled, skilful" (as in "a qualified expert").
; quiddity : Can mean either the essence of a thing or a quibble.
; quite : Can mean either "completely" (as in "Are you quite sure?") or "slightly".
; ransomer: A person who pays a ransom or a person who is withholding and ransoming the item.
; ravel: as a verb, may mean to tangle or to untangle
; reflexive: can mean "marked by reflection" or "characterized by habitual, unthinking behavior"
; rent : can be used to mean paying to use something, as in "I'm renting an apartment", or used to mean taking money to let someone else use something of yours, as in "We rent cars to anyone"
; scan : Originally, this word meant "to examine closely," but has come to mean "to look over hastily".
; screen : Conceal with or as if with a screen; or "to display prominently" as in screening a film.
; secreted : Usually obvious due to context; but this can mean either "hidden" (secreted away), or "exposed" (secreted from a wound). The former is the verb form of "secret", and is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable. The latter is the past tense of "secrete" and is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable. (This would not be a contronym, but a homograph, where two words from different roots are spelled the same, but pronounced differently.)
; seed : To add seeds, as in seeding a field, or to remove seeds, as in seeding a fruit.
; sick : Used with a standard definition, this word can mean "disgusted; revolted," but used colloquially, it can mean "very pleasant; agreeable".
; sinople : A color term that can mean either green or red, depending on usage.
; skin : To add skin, or to remove it. "Skin that deer" "Skin that kayak".
; snuff : Originally this meant to cut the burnt part of a wick from a candle without extinguishing it, but it has come to mean to extinguish a candle.
; stakeholder : Historically and legally means to hold (but not have an interest in) a stake; however, the term is now sometimes used, especially re corporate governance, to reference one who does have an interest in an issue.
; stay : Can mean stopping an action ("stay the execution"), or to continue an action ("stay the course" - note: the original meaning of the phrase "stay the course" was in the first sense; that is, to stop the course of action).
; strike : Normally meaning "to hit", in baseball it means "to miss", and an extension of this usage has led to the meaning "to make a mistake". Further adding to the contradiction, in bowling it refers to the best possible play. Another contradiction results with the phrase strike out: the baseball lineage leads to the meaning "to run out of hope"; but the original lineage also leads to the meaning "to start pursuing a desire"
; suspicious : Can mean that a person is acting in a way that suggests wrong-doing, i.e. "He seems very suspicious." or can mean that the person in question suspects wrong doing in others, i.e. "He was suspicious of her motives."
; table : As a verb, can mean either (a) to raise an issue for discussion, or (b) to lay an issue aside and discontinue discussion.
; temper : As a verb, it can either mean to soften or mollify, or to strengthen (e.g. a metal).
; terrific : Originally and still used to mean "inducing terror", but has now come to have a positive connotation as well, meaning "fantastic" or "amazing"
; theory : In science, a theory is a well-substantiated explanation for natural phenomena — used colloquially, a theory is a concept that is not yet verified and is not necessarily natural.
; trim : Similar to clip: it can mean "to add decoration to" (trim the (Christmas) tree), or "to remove from" (trim the bushes).
; trip : To move fluidly and effortlessly, or to fall as a result of colliding with an obstacle.
; trying : As an adjective, 'hard to endure'. As a verb, 'to make an effort'. A teacher's report may say, "Your child is trying".
; unbending : Rigid, inflexible, refusing to yield or compromise, as in "his stance against reform was unbending": or becoming less tense, relaxing, as in "unbending a little, she confided ..."
; undress : As a noun, it usually means the lack of clothing (as in in a state of undress) or, more technically, everyday clothing (as opposed to full dress worn for ceremonies).
; unitize : To form or combine into one unit, or to divide or separate into multiple units.
; unloosen : Colloquially, to loosen; literally, to tighten.
; unshelled : Not removed from their shells (adjective) or having been removed from their shells (the past tense and past participle of "to unshell"). The ambiguity therefore arises when in the adjective is used predicatively, as in "The eggs were unshelled", which can mean "The eggs had not been removed from their shells" or "The eggs were removed from their shells" (someone unshelled them).
; virago : the first definition of this word refers to "a loud, domineering, ill-tempered woman," whereas the second meaning is a "strong, courageous woman."
; weather : To weather a storm means "to endure" the storm; but generally to weather means "to erode", "to decay".
; wicked : The strict definition of the adjective is "evil"; the now generally accepted slang usage (barring regional quirks) is roughly equivalent to "very good".
; with : "The US fought with the English during WWII" is true, but equally true is "The US fought with the Germans during WWII".
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