Although we encourage children to explore antonyms when we look at synonyms, there are some opposites that don’t seem to make any sense or even exist.
Does everything have an opposite? Are some opposites the same word?
A creative thinking and writing exercise well worth doing in class is the game ‘What is the opposite of…?’.
It’s simple enough to set up but not necessarily that simple to complete!
So, here we go. What is the opposite of…?
- …a red herring?
Resign is a good example. This works as a contronym in writing because “resign” means ‘to quit’ but is spelled the same as “resign” meaning ‘to sign up again,’.
A contronym is a word with a homonym (another word with the same spelling but different meaning)that is also an antonym (words with opposite meanings) e.g. the word “transparent” can mean either something that is invisible or obvious.
Other contronyms include:
- Bolt: to secure, or to flee
- Buckle: to connect, or to break or collapse
- Dust: to add fine particles, or to remove them
- Fast: fixed firmly in its place, or to move quickly
- Overlook: to supervise, or to neglect
- Puzzle: to solve a problem, to pose a problem
- Sanction: to approve, or to boycott
- Scan: to peruse, or to glance
- Screen: to present, or to conceal
- Skin: to cover, or to remove
- Trim: to decorate, or to remove excess from
- Trip: a journey, or a stumble
- Variety: a particular type, or many types
- Wear: to endure, or to deteriorate
- With: alongside, or against
We also call these autoantonyms.
Autoantonym is a word that is the opposite of itself and these have also been called Janus words after the two-faced Greek mythical figure, from which “January” also derives.
It’s little wonder the English language is a notoriously difficult one to learn and master. But this is what makes English so delicious to learn too.