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25 Words that are their own opposites

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

It's always Opposite Day somewhere

Sometimes words have multiple personalities, too. Be careful using these 25 words that have two definitions that are exact opposites!
Confused woman

It's always Opposite Day somewhere

Sometimes words have multiple personalities, too. Be careful using these 25 words that have two definitions that are exact opposites!

Bad things can happen when homographs (two words with the same spelling that don't mean the same thing) mean the opposite thing and create auto-antonyms (aka contronyms).

1

Apparent

Apparent means obvious, but it can also mean something believed to be true based on observation that later proved untrue based on evidence.

2

Awful

Most people would mean really bad if they used this word, but it can also mean worthy of awe.

3

Bill

A bill is something submitted to a customer showing how much is owed or the legal tender one uses to pay for goods or services.

4

B****

This word for a female of certain carnivorous mammalian species (i.e., canines) can be used to refer to something or someone who is difficult or unpleasant. But it's also used to reference someone who is weak or submissive.

5

Bolt

You can bolt (secure) your door to keep yourself safe from harm or bolt (run away) in the other direction.

6

Buckle

Buckle can mean to fasten (as in a seat belt) or to bend and collapse under weight or pressure.

7

Cleave

Cleave can mean to be split or cut in two, but a lesser-known meaning is to adhere or cling to.

8

Clip

You can use scissors to clip (cut) a piece of paper in half, then use a paperclip to clip (fasten) them back together.

9

Consult

Consult means to get assistance (to consult a dictionary), but it can also mean to provide help (to be paid to consult on a project).

10

Deceptively (plus an adjective)

The question here always lies in where the deception is. If a very intelligent person feigns stupidity to cause people to underestimate her, she could be said to be deceptively smart. The boss whose job she takes may also be deceptively smart — less intelligent than everyone thought he was.

11

Dust

Dust the noun is a collection of fine particles of matter. The verb form (to dust), however, can mean to remove dust (to dust the furniture) or to sprinkle with a fine substance (to dust a cake with powdered sugar).

12

Fast

On the football field, a receiver has to run fast (move quickly), while a defensive lineman has to hold fast (stand firm).

Up next: More words that are their own opposites >>

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