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Tag Archive | SAT

14 Words That Are Their Own Opposites

Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, ‘Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression‘ or does it mean, ‘Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default’? We’ve stumbled into the looking-glass world of “contronyms”—words that are their own antonyms.

1. Sanction (via French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify,’) can mean ‘give official permission or approval for (an action)’ or conversely, ‘impose a penalty on.’
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2. Oversight is the noun form of two verbs with contrary meanings, “oversee” and “overlook.” “Oversee,” from Old English ofersēon ‘look at from above,’ means ‘supervise’ (medieval Latin for the same thing: super- ‘over’ + videre ‘to see.’) “Overlook” usually means the opposite: ‘to fail to see or observe; to pass over without noticing; to disregard, ignore.’
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3. Left can mean either remaining or departed. If the gentlemen have withdrawn to the drawing room for after-dinner cigars, who’s left? (The gentlemen have left and the ladies are left.)
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4. Dust, along with the next two words, is a noun turned into a verb meaning either to add or to remove the thing in question. Only the context will tell you which it is. When you dust are you applying dust or removing it? It depends whether you’re dusting the crops or the furniture.
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5. Seed can also go either way. If you seed the lawn you add seeds, but if you seed a tomato you remove them.
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6. Stone is another verb to use with caution. You can stone some peaches, but please don’t stone your neighbor (even if he says he likes to get stoned).
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7. Trim as a verb predates the noun, but it can also mean either adding or taking away. Arising from an Old English word meaning ‘to make firm or strong; to settle, arrange,’ “trim” came to mean ‘to prepare, make ready.’ Depending on who or what was being readied, it could mean either of two contradictory things: ‘to decorate something with ribbons, laces, or the like to give it a finished appearance’ or ‘to cut off the outgrowths or irregularities of.’ And the context doesn’t always make it clear. If you’re trimming the tree are you using tinsel or a chain saw?
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8. Cleave can be cleaved into two “homographs,” words with different origins that end up spelled the same. “Cleave,” meaning ‘to cling to or adhere,’ comes from an Old English word that took the forms cleofian, clifian, or clīfan. “Cleave,” with the contrary meaning ‘to split or sever (something), ‘ as you might do with a cleaver, comes from a different Old English word, clēofan. The past participle has taken various forms: “cloven,” which survives in the phrase “cloven hoof,” “cleft,” as in a “cleft palate” or “cleaved.”
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9. Resign works as a contronym in writing. This time we have homographs, but not homophones. “Resign,” meaning ‘to quit,’ is spelled the same as “resign,” meaning ‘to sign up again,’ but it’s pronounced differently.
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10. Fast can mean “moving rapidly,” as in “running fast,” or ‘fixed, unmoving,’ as in “holding fast.” If colors are fast they will not run. The meaning ‘firm, steadfast’ came first. The adverb took on the sense ‘strongly, vigorously,’ which evolved into ‘quickly,’ a meaning that spread to the adjective.
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11. Off means ‘deactivated,’ as in “to turn off,” but also ‘activated,’ as in “The alarm went off.”
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12. Weather can mean ‘to withstand or come safely through,’ as in “The company weathered the recession,” or it can mean ‘to be worn away’: “The rock was weathered.”
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13. Screen can mean ‘to show’ (a movie) or ‘to hide’ (an unsightly view).
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14. Help means ‘assist,’ unless you can’t help doing something, when it means ‘prevent.’

Source

Read more: Contronyms: What did you mean by ‘deceptievly’ smart?

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Simple but Intelligent Word Choices

#10: Lucid

Definition:

very clear and easy to understand; able to think clearly

Words It Might Replace:

clear, logical, orderly (describing an explanation); rational (describing a person). The word’s original meaning, by the way, is “suffused with light.”

Example:

“But instead of a lucid narrative explaining what happened when the economy imploded in 2008, why, and who was to blame, the report is a confusing and contradictory mess…” – Frank Partnoy, The New York Times, January 29, 2011

#9: Austere

Definition:

marked by rigorous restraint, simplicity, or self–denial

Words It Might Replace:

simple or plain, especially when you’re describing something that is strict or without comfort

Example:

“This is the austere beauty of the desert: limitless vistas, clear skies, dramatic topography, an unforgiving environment for life of any kind.” – James Fallows, The Atlantic, October 2008

#8: Volatile

Definition:

likely to change in a very sudden or extreme way; having or showing extreme or sudden changes of emotion

Words It Might Replace:

unstable; emotional; unpredictable

Example:

“Prosecutors want to demonstrate that Bonds treated those around him in an abusive and hostile manner and that his volatile nature was also the result of steroid use.” – Christian Red, New York Daily News, March 17, 2011

#7: Stoic

Definition:

showing no emotion especially when something bad is happening

Words It Might Replace:

unemotional; uncomplaining; cold

Example:

“Hockey also gives normally staid, stoic and polite Canadians license to be aggressive.” – Stuart Weinberg, Wall Street Journal (wsj.com), November 30, 2010

#6: Caustic

Definition:

marked by sharp or biting sarcasm; very harsh and critical

Words It Might Replace:

critical, hostile, snarky; nasty; sarcastic

Example:

“This world loves bickering buddies…. [T]here’s plenty of fondness for comedies built around caustic and amusing back–and–forths between two people that, at the drop of a hat, either want to kill each other or cuddle.” – Christopher Bell, blogs.indiewire.com, April 27, 2011

#5: Maudlin

Definition:

showing or expressing too much emotion especially in a foolish or annoying way

Words It Might Replace:

sappy; schmaltzy; overly emotional

Example:

“His daughter’s account of his final days manages to capture the emotion without becoming maudlin.” – Glenn C. Altschuler, NPR.org, April 28, 2011

#4: Lurid

Definition:

causing horror or revulsion; involving sex or violence in a way that is meant to be shocking

Words It Might Replace:

shocking; sensational; gruesome

Example:

“Like articles about drug busts, this sort of story [about a prostitution ring] produces lurid, boldface headlines that catch the reader’s eye.” – Mark Drought, Stamford Advocate, April 13, 2011

#3: Glib

Definition:

said or done too easily or carelessly; marked by ease in speaking to the point of being deceitful

Words It Might Replace:

careless; insincere

Example:

“A time may come when Tiger Woods will be glib and ebullient and full of witty observations about golf. But I doubt it.” – David Jones, pennlive.com, April 15, 2011

#2: Cavalier

Definition:

having or showing no concern for something that is important or serious

Words It Might Replace:

thoughtless or careless, especially when you’re describing a disregard for consequences

Example:

“Many took issue with [Kristen] Stewart’s rather cavalier use of the term [“rape”], even if it was used in a metaphorical sense…” – Michael Jordan, BlackBook, June 4, 2010

#1: Demure

Long and exotic words (like defenestration or sesquipedalian) are often more fascinating than useful. By comparison, this list offers words that can enrich a conversation without sounding ridiculous.

Definition:

not attracting or demanding a lot of attention; not showy or flashy; quiet and polite

Words It Might Replace:

modest; unassuming; shy; coy

Example:

“As William and Kate sang prayers from the specially designed hymn sheets, the two sisters looked on unassumingly. But despite their demure appearance, rumours even began to surface today that one of the women was a secret ‘ninja nun’ intended to protect the Royal couple by pouncing on any intruders.” – Daily Mail, May 1, 2011

Read more…

Contronyms: What did you mean by deceptively smart?

A synonym is a word that means the same as another.

Necessary and required are synonyms.

https://i2.wp.com/mrgray.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/a_synonym_tshirt.jpg

An antonym is a word that means the opposite of another.

Wet and dry are antonyms.

While synonyms and antonyms are not in themselves interesting, the complexities and irregularities of the English language sometimes make synonyms and antonyms interesting to explore. Many complexities result from words having multiple definitions.

A trivial example is a word with synonyms that aren’t synonyms of each other, the word beam, for example, having the synonyms bar and shine.

Similarly, some words have antonyms that are neither synonyms nor antonyms of each other but completely unrelated: the word right, for example, having the antonyms wrong and left.

A more interesting paradox occurs with the word groom, which does not really have an antonym in the strictest sense but has an opposite of sorts in the word bride, which can be used as a prefix to create a synonym, bridegroom.

https://i1.wp.com/www.bohobride.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/groom01.jpg

The word contronym (also antagonym) is used to refer to words that, by some freak of language evolution, are their own antonyms. Read More…

168 Color terms in English

Compiled by Stephen Chrisomalis

This list contains 168 definitions of obscure colour terms using combinations of ‘normal‘ colours of the rainbow and descriptive adjectives; e.g. cardinal = deep scarlet red; russet = reddish brown. Note that most English speakers outside the U.S. spell colour with the added British ‘u’ rather than the American version color. Don’t worry if the colours (or colors) in your universe don’t match up with the definitions I’ve given for these words, though – I’ve been known to have skewed perceptions of reality … Read More…

Another 10 Words That You’ve Probably Been Misusing

girl-confused

Tyler Vendetti

There are so many words in the English language that it’s not surprising that the definitions for some of them have gotten mixed up over the years. It’s possible that you’ve gone your entire life without realizing your mistakes. I’m sure people have noticed. How long have you been using that word incorrectly, you wonder? How many angry Facebook rants have you ruined with your improper grammar? While I can’t give you an answer to those questions, I can at least provide you with a list of other tricky words so that you may never have to suffer from this embarrassment ever again:

1. Travesty

What you may think it means: a tragedy, an unfortunate event

What it actually means: a mockery; a parody

This one, I’ll admit, is my own personal error. For the longest time, I equated travesty with tragedy, mostly because in passing, they sound like the same word. It’s stupid, I know, but if you knew how many times I confused fetal position with beetle position, you wouldn’t be laughing. It’s a serious problem.

2. Ironic

Read More…

Another 20 “Forgotten” Words That Should Be Brought Back

Languages are living things that shift and evolve over time. If you look at the history of the English language, from Anglo Saxon through the Great Vowel Shift to what we consider Standard English today, you’ll notice that it has undergone some spectacular changes over the centuries. Some basic words have stuck around through the ages, like “father”, “house”, “egg”, “boat” and so on, but just as new words developed over time, other words were discarded along the way.

Many others from Shakespeare’s time through to the early 20th century have fallen out of common usage, and we are undoubtedly the poorer for it. Here are 20 words that could only serve to add a bit more colour to our daily lives if they happened to come back into regular use.

1. Bunbury

noun

An imaginary person whose name is used as an excuse to some purpose, especially to visit a place.

“Auntie Jane the cottage dweller” was my go-to bunbury whenever I wanted to take a day off to go play in the forest. Read More…

Important Infrequently Used Words To Know

Paul V. Hartman

(The Capitalized syllable gets the emphasis)

A

alacrity       a-LACK-ra-tee      cheerful willingness and promptness
anathema       a-NATH-a-ma      a thing or person cursed, banned, or reviled
anodyne        AN-a-dine      not likely to cause offence or disagreement and somewhat dull//anything that sooths or comforts
aphorism       AFF-oar-ism      a short, witty saying or concise principle
apostate       ah-POSS-tate       (also:  apostasy)      person who has left the fold or deserted the faith.
arrogate       ARROW-gate      to make an unreasonable claim
atavistic      at-a-VIS-tic      reverting to a primitive type
avuncular      a-VUNC-you-lar      “like an uncle”; benevolent

Read More…

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