Wrongful language: contronyms

Contronyms/antagonym – words that can mean the opposite of themselves. My favourite sources of confusion:

  • cleave – to separate into or adhere two parts
  • custom – something usual or special
  • dust – to add fine particles or to remove fine particles
  • fast – to move fast or to stuck fast
  • sanction – to approve or to boycott
  • screen – to show or to hide something
  • skinned – with the skin on or with the skin removed – very annoying in cookbooks
  • transparent – something that is invisible or bloody obvious
  • weather – to withstand the elements or to be worn down by them


4 responses to “Wrongful language: contronyms

  1. Nice list. I hadn’t ever thought about it before.

  2. Don’t forget dust-to sprinkle a thin layer on (as a cake dusted with powdered sugar) or to remove particles from a surface (dusting the house)

  3. fast – one cannot define a word with the use of the same word in the definition

    • True – ‘Fast – moving quickly or stuck in the same place’ seemed a bit opaque so I switched to using an example.

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