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That’s the Word For It: Contronym

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Have you ever thought about why fast means quick and at the same time means to immobilize? When a word or phrase means its opposite as well, it is called a contronym. Slang employs this kind of inversion of meaning, take for instance the word ‘sick’ or ‘wicked’ now used to convey something awesome or cool.

Here’s a list of contronyms.

Check out this usage of the word:

Sometimes, just to heighten the confusion, the same word ends up with contradictory meanings. This kind of word is called a contronymSanction, for instance, can either signify permission to do something or a measure forbidding it to be done. Cleave can mean cut in half or stick together. A sanguine person is either hotheaded and bloodthirsty or calm and cheerful. Something that is fast is either stuck firmly or moving quickly.— Bill BrysonThe Mother Tongue1990

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