(also called schizophrenic word by Willard R. Espy):
A single word that has two meanings that are opposites:
- cleave, 1 : adhere to 2 : split apart
- sanction, 1 : authoritative approval 2 : coercive measure -- usually plural in this sense
- imposing, 1 : impressive 2 : taking unwarranted advantage -- often used with "on" or "upon"
- trip, 1 : step lightly 2 : stumble or cause to stumble
- weather, 1 : expose to the action of weather 2 : endure the action of weather
- overlook, 1 : observation point 2 : fail to see
- cavalier, 1 : gay; easy; offhand; frank. 2 : supercilious; haughty; disdainful; curt; brusque.
- dress, 1 : put clothes (skins and feathers?) on 2 : prepare an animal by taking off the skin or feathers.
- buckle, 1 : fasten together 2 : fall apart
- clip, 1: separate (cut) 2 : fasten
- oversight, 1 : supervision 2 : neglect
- qualified, 1 : competent 2 : limited
- sanction, 1 : approve 2 : disapprove
- temper, 1 : soften 2 : strengthen
- resign, 1 : give up, quit 2 : sign on again. See Heteronyms
- left, 1: Gone 2: stayed behind
Two Submitted by Elaine Chubb:
- let -- meaning (1) allow and (2) hinder or obstruct (my British passport asks foreign countries to let me pass "without let or hindrance").
- fast -- meaning (1) speedy and (2) standing still (as in "stand fast") or firmly fixed, unmoving (as in a fast dye).
Submitted by Steven Cytryn:
- scan --1. to examine minutely. 2. to glance at hastily.
From the AWAD of 04/12/04:
- chuffed, 1: pleased; satisfied 2 : displeased; annoyed
- tabled, 1: brought forward for discussion (UK) 2: laid aside (US)
- endsville, 1: Most excellent or the best. 2: Most undesirable; the end.
- sententious, 1: Full of pithy expressions. 2: Full of pompous moralizing.
- excrescence, 1: An abnormal outgrowth, e.g. wart. 2: A normal outgrowth, e.g. hair or nail.
A Janus Phrase!
- make fast, 1: tie up, stop from moving 2: Cause to move fast.
"I call them fence-sitters. They sit on the fences, ready to say one thing or its opposite, depending on which side they appear. I'm not talking about politicians. These are words, known by many names: autoantonym, antagonym, contranym, enantiodromic, amphibolous, Janus word, and so on.
Sometimes it's a result of two distinct words evolving into the same form (cleave from Old English cleofian and cleofan) but often a single word develops a split personality and takes on two contradictory senses. All of us have a bit of yin and yang and these words are no exception. The context usually provides a clue to help us understand the right sense in a given place."
-Anu Garg (A.W.A.D.)
Janus -the Roman god of doorways, often depicted with two faces.