Word Nerd: 5 words that are their own opposites

23 Oct

Even if you don’t know Hawaiian, you’ve probably heard the word ‘aloha’ and know it is used as both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. The Italian ‘ciao’ is similar. In Hindi, ‘kal’ can mean either yesterday or tomorrow, which probably goes a long way in explaining Indian attitudes towards deadlines. Such words with two opposite meanings are known as contranyms. Leave a comment if you can think of any that are missing from our list below!

Sanction: You can impose sanctions (penalties) if someone does something that is not allowed, or you can sanction (allow) their behavior. Okkkkkaaaayyyyy then.


Left: Suppose there are 10 people at a party. After four of them have left (departed), how many are left (remaining)? This is not a math problem. It’s an English problem.


Seed: When you seed a field, you put seeds in it. But when you seed a fruit, you remove the seeds from it – what?


Consult: Why do we have the same word for ‘giving advice’ and ‘seeking advice’? There are so many words, and if we need we can even make up a new one for free!


Oversight: This can either mean ‘watch with care’ or ‘a careless mistake’. So the lack of oversight could result in an oversight.



By: BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer


Want to read more about the quirks of English? Check out these links!
An English-speaker’s guide to funny Americanisms
5 Hinglish words that don’t travel well
Why is spam called spam?
5 weird words heard at Wimbledon
9 whacky and wonderful words to describe people

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