Definition of contronym in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkäntrəˌnim/
(also contranym)


A word with two opposite meanings, e.g., sanction (which can mean both ‘a penalty for disobeying a law’ and ‘official permission or approval for an action’).
Example sentences
  • For my part, I try to avoid words that lead to confusion like this; that's why I proscribe the usage of contranyms.
  • In the special case of contronyms, the polysemous terms contain two opposite meanings.
  • Using a contronym requires the listener's knowing which of its meanings applies.


1960s: blend of contra- and -onym, on the pattern of synonym and antonym.

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