Some words are just weird. You think you’re using them correctly, but then there’s that moment of doubt. Does that word mean something else entirely? One of the ironies of the English language is that occasionally, both meanings are correct — even if they’re wildly different.
A contronym (also called a contranym or an autoantonym) is a word with two meanings that happen to be the opposite of each other. Specifically, according to the grammarly blog, “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).”
Contronyms are also sometimes referred to “Janus words” after the two-faced Roman god.
Here are 30 contronyms and their contradictory, two-faced definitions.
To separate by fleeing or to hold together (as with a bolt)
Going toward a destination or restrained from moving
To fasten together (with a buckle) or to bend or collapse from pressure
To adhere firmly and closely or to split apart
To fasten (as with a paperclip) or to detach with shears (clipping your hair or your hedges)
To give advice or to get advice
A common practice or a specially made item
Dust off your dictionary. Some words (like dust) can have clashing meanings. (Photo: d8nn/Shutterstock)
To cover something with a fine power or to make something clean by brushing or removing dust
To order someone to do something or to prohibit someone from doing something
Firmly fixed and unmoving or able to move rapidly
Completed or destroyed
To add decorative touches (to food or drink) or to take/withhold from (as in wages)
An advantage given to equalize chances of winning (as in golf) or a disadvantage that makes equality difficult
To boycott or to approve