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Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Words with Contradictory Meanings

Here is a list of words that have meanings which can contradict each other/


Anon : Immediately [Archaic] or soon vs. Later

Anxious: Full of mental distress because of apprehension of danger or misfortune [in effect, seeking to avoid] (We were anxious about the nearby gunshots.) vs. Eager or looking forward to (Until you returned, I was anxious to see you.)

Apparent: Not clear or certain (For now, he is the apparent winner of the contest.) vs. Obvious (The solution to the problem was apparent to all.)

Assume: To actually have (To assume office) vs. To hope to have ("He assumed he would be elected.")

Avocation: A hobby vs. a regular occupation [and one could say it's a triple antagonym if you agree that the archaic meaning of "a distraction" is the opposite of working (even at a hobby) and if you agree that the obsolete meaning of "a calling away" takes you away from (the opposite of participating in) your hobbies, work, and even your distractions!]

Awful: Extremely unpleasant, ugly vs. Awe-inspiring [typically, a feeling of admiration]

Bad: See above

Bound: Moving ("I was bound for Chicago") vs. Unable to move ("I was bound to a post", or less literally, "I was bound to my desk")

Buckle: to hold together (e.g. buckle your belt) vs. to fall apart (e.g., buckle under pressure)

Bull: A solemn edict or mandate vs. Nonsense or worthless information

Chuff: Elated vs. Unhappy

Cite, Citation: For doing good (such as military gallantry) vs. for doing bad (such as from a traffic policeman)

Cleave: To adhere tightly vs. To cut apart

Clip: to attach vs. to cut off

Cool: positive sense (cool web-sites) vs. negative sense(cool reception).

Comprise: To contain entirely vs. To be included in ("The United States comprises 50 states"; "The 50 states comprise the United States") [Some will argue with both uses, including me; however, both uses have become commonplace and some sources list both without comment.]

Counterfeit: [Archaic] a legitimate copy vs. a copy meant to deceive

Cut: get in (as in line or queue) vs. get out (as in a school class)

Dust: To remove dust vs. To apply dust (as in fingerprinting)

Effectively: in effect (doing the equivalent of the action but not the real thing) vs. with effect (doing the action and doing it well) [Contrast "he is effectively lying" (colloquial?) with "he is lying effectively"]

Fast: Moving rapidly vs. Unable to move ("I was held fast to my bed.")

Fix: to restore to function (fixing the refrigerator) vs. to make non-functional (fixing the dog)

Fearful: Causing fear vs. Being afraid

Goods: [Slang] good things vs. bad things ("I have the goods from the warehouse robbery, but I'm worried the police have the goods on me.")

Hysterical: Being overwhelmed with fear [in some cases] vs. Being funny

Incorporate: When a village is incorporated, it is formed, but when it is incorporated into a city, the village is destroyed

Last: Just prior vs. final (My last book will be my last publication)

Lease, Let, Rent: [in essence] To loan out for money vs. To "borrow" for money

Left: To remain vs. to have gone (Of all who came, only Fred's left. [Does it mean he's the only one who still remains or that he's the first to depart?])

Let: [Archaic] To hinder vs. To allow

License: Liberty or permission to do something vs. Undue or excessive freedom or liberty

Literally: Precisely vs. often corruptly used to mean "figuratively" (As in: "There were literally millions of people at that party."). Our correspondent writes: Many people think this is an error, albeit a common one; but I think "Literally millions of people" isn't so much error as a form of hyperbole; the trouble is that the literal meaning of "literally" is, among other things, "not hyperbolically."

Livid: Pale, ashen vs. dark gray-blue (and sometimes corrupted to mean bright red!)

Mad: carried away by enthusiasm or desire vs. carried away by hatred or anger

Moot: [a slight stretch here] A moot point is one that is debatable, yet is also of no significance or has been previously decided, so why debate it?

Overlook: to pay attention to, to inspect ("We had time to overlook the contract.") vs. to ignore

Oversight: Watchful and responsible care vs. An omission or error due to carelessness

Peruse: Read in a casual way, skim (To peruse the Sunday paper) vs. to read with great attention to detail or to study carefully (To peruse a report on financial conditions).

Policy: Required activity without exception (University policy) vs. An optional course of action (our government's policy regarding the economy)

Populate: To decimate the population (obsolete use) vs. to increase the population

Practiced: Experienced, expert (I am practiced in my work) vs. Inexperienced effort (The child practiced coloring.)

Prescribe: To lay down a rule vs. To become unenforceable

Quite: Completely vs. Not completely (e.g., quite empty [totally empty]; quite full [not completely full, just nearly so])

Ravel: to disentangle or unravel vs. to tangle or entangle

Recover: hide away (cover again) vs. bring out [hyphenated] (The dinosaur bones were exposed by the flood but then re-covered with dirt, hiding them again; centuries later, the paleontologists recovered them by removing the dirt.)

Refrain: In song, meaning to repeat a certain part vs. To stop (Please refrain from using bad language)

Release: let go vs. hold on (lease the property again) [hyphenated as re-lease]

Replace: Take away (replace the worn carpet) vs. Put back (replace the papers in the file)

Repress: hold back vs. put forth (press again) [hyphenated]

Reprove: rebuke (reprove a colleague's work) vs. support (re-prove a scientist's theory)

Reservation: what you make when you know where you want to go vs. what you have when you're not sure if you want to go

Reside: to stay put vs. [Slang] to change places (change teams) [hyphenated as re-side] [N.B.: This is also a heteronym!]

Resign: to quit a contract vs. to sign the contract again [hyphenated as re-sign]

Restive: refusing to move (forward) (a restive horse) vs. Restless (moving around)

Restore [in the following use]: The painting was said to be a fake, so the museum re-stored it in the warehouse. When it was later found to be real, the museum restored it to its place in the gallery.

Riot: Violent disorder vs. Revelry {Consider what is meant when one says, "It was a riot!")

Rival: An opponent vs. (Archaic) A companion or associate

Rocky: Firm, steadfast vs. tending to sway (e.g., a rocky shelf)

Root: To establish (The seed took root.) vs. To remove entirely (usually used with "out", e.g., to root out dissenters)

Sanction: Support for an action (They sanctioned our efforts.) vs. A penalty for an action (The Congressman was sanctioned for inappropriate behavior.)

Scan: to examine closely vs. to look over hastily

Screwed: [Slang, vulgar] Had a good experience (We screwed around all night.) vs. To have a bad experience (I was screwed by that cheater.)

Secreted: Having put out, released vs. Placed out of sight

Shop: To search with the intent to buy ("I shopped for a book at several stores.") vs. To search with the intent to sell ("I shopped my manuscript to several publishers.")

Sick: unpleasant (A sick joke) vs. wonderful (Slang: That sportscar is really sick!)

Skin: to cover with a skin vs. to remove outer covering or skin

Strike out: An ending, as in "The batter struck out." vs. A beginning, as in "I thought it was time to strike out on my own." (1) {L} Also, a strike in bowling occurs when there is complete contact between ball and wood (of the pins), whereas a strike in baseball occurs when there is complete absence of contact between ball and wood (of the bat). Also, to strike causes stoppage of work whereas in the theater to strike is to work on the set, lighting, etc.

Terrific: (Informal) Extraordinarily good vs. Causing terror

Transparent: Easily seen ("His motives were transparent.") invisible

Trim: To add things to (trim a Christmas tree) vs. or take pieces off (trim hair)

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