Words That Have Opposite Meanings

by | Jul 2, 2018


contronym is a word  which can have an opposite meaning depending on context. According to Grammerly, “a contronym is a word with a homonym (another word with the same spelling but different meaning) that is also an antonym (a word with the opposite meaning).” Here’s a list of some of the most common ones:

Cleave: means both “to separate” such as “he used an ax to cleave the firewood” and “to cling to” as in Genesis 2:24 “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

Bolt: “to secure” such as “the ladder was bolted to the concrete” and “to flee” as in “it looked like rain so we bolted from watching the game.”

Clip:  “to cut apart” like “I clipped the tag off my new shirt” or to “attach together” such as “I clipped my flashlight to my belt”

Dust: “to remove dust” such as “one of my chores was to dust the living room” or to “sprinkle something with a powder” like “we woke to find a light dusting of snow”

Sanction: to give official permission or approval” such as “the ordinance sanctions my ability to keep two chickens in my yard” and also “to impose a penalty on” like when we placed sanctions on Russia in response to meddling in the 2016 election.

Peruse?: Please Peruse this IFOD

Weather: to withstand” like when we say “our trees weathered the storm well” but also means “to wear away” such as when we say “the paint on the house was mostly weathered off.”

Seed: can refer to sowing seeds, like seeding a lawn, or can refer to removing seeds from something such as like seeding a watermelon.

Off: can mean “deactivated” such as “turning the light off” or can mean “activated” such as “the alarm went off”

Oversight: “to monitor or supervise” such as “the general had oversight of 5 companies” and also “an unintentional failure to notice or do something” as in “that mistake was due to a simple oversight.”

Variety: “a particular type” such as “an elm is a variety of tree” and also “quality or state of being different or diverse” such as “eat a variety of fruits and vegetables”

Bound: heading toward something” such as “I’m bound for Chicago” as well as “to tie or fasten tightly” as in “I would rather have a book bound by hardcover than paperback.”

Literally: The main meaning of this word is “in a literal sense or manner : actually” such as “I literally am turning 49 next year” but is also now used to mean “figuratively or virtually” as well such as “I literally was dying of laughter.”


  1. I think that “literally” is literally misused

  2. Is “hive” another one of these? Where does “cleavage” fit in?


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