Opposites are usually easy to identify: hot and cold, fast and slow, up and down. But do you know what a "contronym" is? It's a single word with two opposite meanings. Sounds fascinating and confusing, right? These are probably pretty obscure, don't you think? Well, contronyms often turn out to be words we use every day. We just don't think of them generally as having conflicting meanings. Check out our list below of common words that are their own opposites. Bet you won't think of them the same way again.
Meaning 1: to cling to or adhere.
Example: People cleave to religion because it gives them hope.
Meaning 2: to split or sever
Example: Dad used a large ax to cleave the wood for the fire.
Meaning 1: to withstand or come safely through.
Example: Our company was able to weather the recession.
Meaning 2: to be worn away.
Example: That book looks very old and weathered.
Meaning 1: remove the stones from a fruit.
Example: To make guacamole, you need to halve, stone, and peel the avocado.
Meaning 2: to throw stones at someone.
Example: The police officers were stoned by the protestors.
Meaning 1: to have departed
Meaning 2: to be remaining
Example: After supper, the men left to enjoy cigars in the smoke room. Only the women were left at the dining table.
5. Toss out
Meaning 1: to suggest something
Example: While brainstorming, we tossed out this idea.
Meaning 2: to discard something
Example: We didn't like that suggestion during the brainstorm, so we decided to toss out that idea.
Meaning 1: to give official permission or approval.
Example: The rally was sanctioned by the government.
Meaning 2: to impose a penalty on.
Example: The government placed a sanction on the rally.
Meaning 1: to show or broadcast something.
Example: The movie is screened every Thursday evening.
Meaning 2: to conceal or hide from view.
Example: The woman wore a veil to screen her face.
Meaning 1: to bind or fasten together.
Example: The secretary clipped all the documents together and filed them.
Meaning 2: to cut short or separate.
Example: The secretary clipped off a part of the document with a pair of scissors.
Meaning 1: to persist in an activity or process.
Example: I continued my stroll through the park until late into the night.
Meaning 2: in a legal context, meaning to stop or postpone.
Example: The case was continued without a finding until June due to lack of evidence.
Meaning 1: to make visible.
Example: The secret was soon out. The roses are out in full bloom.
Meaning 2: not visible; invisible.
Example: The fire was put out. He turned the lights out before bed.
Meaning 1: moving rapidly; to move at high speed.
Example: The car's new engine made it go really fast.
Meaning 2: firmly fixed or attached; unmoving.
Example: The ropes stood tight and held fast to each corner.
Meaning 1: supervision; to look at from above.
Example: I expect my accountant to have effective oversight of the financial reporting process.
Meaning 2: fail to see or observe; to overlook.
Example: The errors in my tax return was due to an oversight by my accountant.
Meaning 1: to make ready by adding to; to decorate.
Example: We decided to trim the Christmas tree with gold tinsel and ornaments.
Meaning 2: to make ready by removing or taking away; to cut.
Example: We decided to trim the thick branches off the Christmas tree.
Meaning 1: to proceed; to move along.
Example: This car can go really fast.
Meaning 2: to give out; to end.
Example: The engine on this car is old and is really starting to go.
Meaning 1: to punish by caning or whipping.
Example: The criminal was flogged for trying to steal his neighbor's food.
Meaning 2: to promote something aggressively.
Example: The author flogged his new book around so it would gain attention.
Meaning 1: adding to; sow (land) with seeds.
Example: The shoreline is seeded with a special grass.
Meaning 2: to take out; remove the seeds from (vegetables or fruit).
Example: The cook stemmed and seeded the chili peppers before adding it to the stew.
Meaning 1: to quit something.
Example: The CEO resigned from his position after the office scandal.
Meaning 2: to start something up again.
Example: The CEO resigned his contract and came back to work for the company.
NOTE: This word works as a contronym in writing, but each meaning is pronounced differently.
Meaning 1: to assist someone to do something;
Example: My guide helped me climb the mountain.
Meaning 2: when you can't help in doing something; to prevent.
Example: I can't help that I'm so popular.
Meaning 1: to remove the dust from the surface of something.
Example: The maid dusted the furniture in the attic.
Meaning 2: to add or cover dust lightly to something.
Example: The farmer dusted his crops with a special ingredient.
Meaning 1: to be deactivated or discontinued;
Example: He turned the lights off and went to bed.
Meaning 2: to be activated or started;
Example: At the sound of the gunshot, the horses went off racing around the track.