15+ Words That Are Literally Their Own Opposites

Image Credit: Pixabay


I truly love the English language and am the type of person who can become endlessly fascinated by a word. Perhaps that’s why I became a writer.

Did you know there’s a special type of word known as a “contronym” –  a word that is its own antonym.

Image Credit: Pixabay

#1. Sanction

You can use it to “give official permission or approval for an action” or “impose a penalty on.”

#2. Cleave

“To cling to or adhere” or “to split or sever,” depending on how you use it.

#3. Left

What’s left or we have left? One means “remaining” and the other “departed.”

#4. Go

“To proceed,” of course, but it can also mean “to give out or fail.”

#5. Clip

You can use a clip to “bind things together” or you can “separate” coupons from the paper by clipping them.

#6. Dust

You can apply dust or remove dust, depending on the context – are you dusting crops or furniture?

#7. Weather

It can mean “to withstand or come safely through,” as with a storm, or conversely, “to be worn away.”

#8. Out of

“I hardly get out of the house anymore since I work out of my home” You’re referring to both “outside” and “inside” with the same phrase.

#9. Oversight

“Supervise” or “to fail to see or observe; to pass over without noticing; to disregard, ignore” – true opposites!

#10. Continue

We generally use it to mean to persist in doing something, though in the legal system, it means to stop a proceeding, if only temporarily.

#11. Out

It means both visible (the moon was out) and invisible (the lights are out).

#12. Screen

It means both “to show” (a film) or “to hide” (something unsightly).

#13. Hold up

This phrase can mean “to support” or “to hinder.”

#14. Off

You can turn something off (deactivated) or an alarm can go off (activated) without changing a thing!

#15. Toss out

“To suggest” and also “to discard.”

#16. Help

Most often used as “assist” but can also be used to mean “prevent” – I couldn’t help myself.

#17. Fast

It can mean both “moving rapidly” and “fixed, unmoving,” as in holding fast.

Go forth and sound smarter, people!