Don’t you love those words that can mean exactly the opposite of what they mean? They’ve been called many names over the years, though none of those names have really stuck: contranyms, antilogies, eniantodromes, and Janus words. I’m fond of that final one, which refers to the two-faced Roman god of transitions, Janus.
A few of my favorite Janus words:
Fast: either something can hold fast, or it can move fast.
Strike: either I can strike the ball or miss the ball & strike out.
Garnish: either a garnish is something added, like parsley on one’s dinner plate, or something subtracted, as in garnished wages.
Citation: I can receive a citation of merit for some good deed, or a traffic citation for a deed of vehicular repute.
Bill: either one receives a bill for what one owes, or one can be paid in bills when one is owed.
Host: I can be helpful by hosting a website or hosting a party, or I can cross to the dark side and host a disease.
Oversight: I can be in charge of the oversight of employees, or I can ignore my responsibilities & be guilty of oversight.
Swipe: I can do what the society honors and swipe my credit card, or I can do what society abhors & swipe something off the shelf.
Dear followers, what other Janus words would you add to the list?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, Fun With Words &Etymonline,
Janus image source
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.