March 29, 2011

Some rough contronyms

Contronyms, or Janus words, are those that have two, opposite meanings.  "Cleave"  means to split into halves, or stick two halves together. 

I've always thought that "warm" was a Janus word.  You can give someone a warm greeting or, in what may be a mostly British usage, have a warm--heated, angry--debate.

How about troll?  A troll may sit for hours under his bridge, and a "patent troll" buys up many patents and sits on them, waiting to sue someone who may have (accidentally) infringed a patent.  On the other hand, "troll" is the noun form of the verb "troll," which usually means to move around hunting, for fish or for a date.

And there's "wicked."  You can be a wicked witch or, if you're from Boston, wicked good at doing something.  It's not just in Boston, either--it's in Webster's Third.

1 comment:

  1. How can you forget the Upstate New York use of wicked? "That's so wicked!"