Because English is such an odd language, there are many ways to play around with it. One such bit of fun is in the study of what is called "Auto-antonyms," a.k.a. "Janus words" or "contranymns." These are names for a certain type of pun--in this case, they are words that have two or more meanings that are diametrically opposed from each other. Several examples follow:
"Anxious" can mean 'nervous' or 'excited': I'm anxious (nervous) about seeing my son's new car. I'm anxious (excited) to see my best friend's new car.
"Aught" can mean 'nothing' (or 'naught') or 'anything': (Don't confuse it with "ought.") The Andersons had aught (nothing) but praise for their graduating offspring. I shall utter aught (anything) but lies in my defense.
"Bill" can refer to an invoice (a request for funds), or it can refer to payment: bank note or dollar note. I paid the bill (invoice) with a ten-dollar bill (note).
"Bolt" can mean 'leave quickly' or 'fasten down': John bolted (ran) from the room when he was asked to give a speech. His friends caught him and tied him to a chair then bolted (fastened) it to the floor.
"Bound" can mean 'restrained' or 'leap': His friends bound (tied) him to a chair so he wouldn't bound (leap) out of the room.
"Buckle" can mean 'clasp together' or 'give way': Be sure your seat belt is buckled (clasped) because the bridge might buckle (give way).
"Centre" can mean 'standing out' or 'blending in': Smith stood out, front and centre (the apex), in the group while Jones was lost in the centre (middle of the crowd).
"Citation" can refer to a commendation or to a court summons: In court, Captain John Doe, RCMP, received a citation (praise) for his vigilance in dispensing justice, then received a citation (police ticket) for brutality.
"Cleve" can mean 'cut away' or 'cling to': Christopher Marlowe referred to a crown as the item "that all men cleve" meaning cut away from the king or cling to as a king.
"Clip" can mean 'fasten' or 'cut apart': Batman's defenses were clipped (fastened) to his utility belt. I was forced to clip (cut out) a scene from the play.
"Curious" can mean 'seriously interesting' or 'seriously interested': I have become increasingly curious (interested) about such curious (interesting) words as auto-antonyms.
"Custom" may either refer to something that is standard or common, or it may refer to something that is tailor made or stylized for a specific person. It is a custom (common practice) for an avid biker to by a custom (specially made) Harley.
"Cut" can mean 'get into' or 'get out of': Pat cut (left) class and cut (entered) into the line for Star Wars.
"Dispense" can mean 'to give out' or 'to be rid of': Judge Harper dispensed (did away) with the formalities of the court and dispensed (doled out) the sentences of those found guilty.
"Dust" can mean 'to spread fine particles' or 'to remove fine particles': Back in the Dustbowl days, Dad dusted the crops (spread fertilizer) in his plane while mom dusted (removed the dust from) the furniture in the house.
"Enjoin" can mean 'to prohibit' or 'to command': Among the recruits, Smith was enjoined (prescribed) by the army doctor to run laps, while Jones was enjoined (prohibited) to move even a muscle while he stood at "attention."
"Fast" can mean 'to move quickly' or 'to stay put': The morning after the party, my sister did a fast (speedy) clean up of the house while I was stuck fast (unmoving) in bed.
"Fine" can refer to something that meets mere minimum standards or it can refer to something that if of exceptionally high quality: The cost of $900 is a fine (standard) price for a suite as fine (excellent) as this.
"Give out" can mean 'to distribute' or 'to stop producing': At the mill after the fire, pink slips were given out (distributed) because all of the equipment had given out (stopped working).
"Hold up" can mean 'to support' or 'to hinder': The construction workers had to hold up (support) the roof because the supply of posts had been held up (delayed).
"Impregnable" can mean 'impossible to enter' or 'able to get pregnant': Hitler's Eagle's Nest was said to be impregnable (impossible to penetrate). Most cows on the Zukerman's farm appeared to be impregnable (fertile) for the bull.
"Lease" can mean "to pay to use," or it may mean "to receive payment for lending": Bob came in the store waning to lease (pay for the use of) a car, so I leased one to him (lent him a car in exchange for money).
"Left" can mean 'departed' or 'remaining': We left (departed) the party because there were no snacks left (remaining).
"Legacy" can refer to what you inherit (like "inheritance") or to what you leave to others to inherit (unlike "inheritance"). The legacy (my inheritance) I received from my great grandfather, is the legacy I leave to My Three Sons and their children.
"Lucky" can mean 'receiving good luck' or 'giving others good luck': "The cricket is lucky; it didn't get hurt; 'The cricket is lucky,' the Buddhists assert."
"Model" can refer to a prime example, or it can refer to a copy: A deity is a model (the standard) for the way we live; we can model (copy) our lives after theirs.
"Moot" can mean 'arguable' or 'irrelevant': The law students argued a moot (relevant) case, but, as they were only students, their verdict is moot (irrelevant).
"Off" can mean "to not function," or it can mean "to function surprisingly": At 3:00 the school bell couldn't go off (sound suddenly) because the power had gone off (not operating) in the building.
"Old" can refer to something in an earlier state, as in the past, or it can refer to something in a later state, as in its future: In the old (past) days, people didn't live long enough to grow as old (long lived) as we do now.
"Overlook" can mean 'to examine' or 'to fail to notice': We had to overlook (supervise) production because too many glitches had been overlooked (missed).
"Oversight" can mean 'to supervise' or 'to omit': I have to oversee (inspect) the end credits because there were too many oversights (omissions) of helpful people.
"Pass on" can mean "to reject" or in can meant "to accept" or "to send through": Pete realized that he could pass on (forget) his plan to beg his teacher when he realized that his grade alone would allow him to pass on (ascend) to the next grade.
"Put out" can mean 'let loose' or 'to extinguish': Lots of water had to be put out (dispursed) in order to put out (extinguish) the flames.
"Replace" can mean "to set in the original spot" or it can mean "to substitute": Rather than to replace (return to where it was) the damaged vase back to the mantle, Peter decided to replace (substitute) it with a new one.
"Root" can mean "to remove" or it can mean "to establish": The Monarchy was rooted (vanquished) from the colonies when they became rooted (founded) in the Republic.
"Sanction" can mean 'punishment' or 'permission': Not only won't the government sanction (allow) spanking, but they impose sanctions (consequences) for doing it.
"Scan" can mean 'examine' or 'glance': We made high-definition scans (detailed copies) of the music, but the musicians only scanned (quickly looked over) it.
"Screen" can mean 'to view' or 'to conceal': I have to screen (read the numbers of) my phone calls in order to screen (hide) my identity.
"Shaft" can refer to a pole or to a tunnel: I found the shaft of an archer's arrow deep down in a mine shaft. (For those who say, "That idea is a bit Freudian, don't you think?" I can only say, "I'm 'afreud' not.")
"Seed" can mean 'spread seed' or 'remove seed': Eli Whitney's cotton gin seeds (removes seeds) the cotton so that workers can seed (plant seeds) the field.
"Strike" can mean 'hit' or 'miss': I found that the best way for me to get more strikes is to give up bowling and take up baseball.
"Table" can mean 'to propose' or 'to set aside': The best way a group can accomplish its task is to table (suggest) cooperation and table (forget) petty bickering.
"Temper" can mean 'to soften' or 'to strengthen': We had to temper (soften) our preconceptions in order to temper (strengthen) our collective resolve.
"Trim" can mean 'to add to' or 'to cut away': While Brother and I trimmed (decorated) the tree, Mom and Dad trimmed (cut the excess) the wrapping paper on our presents.
"Weather" can mean 'to withstand' or 'to wear away': The strength of the roof had weathered (worn) some, but we were still able to weather (withstand) the storm.
"Wind up" can mean 'to prepare to start' or 'to end': At the end of the day we weren't allowed to wind up (prepare to start) our toys because the festivities were beginning to wind up (come to an end).
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