peruse v : examine or consider with attention and in detail; "Please peruse this report at your leisure"
to examine or consider with care
- Finnish: tutkia
- Portuguese: examinar
to read completely
This is a list of self-contradicting English words -- that is, words which in and of themselves have two or more generally accepted meanings in the English language that directly or generally contradict each other. Such words are also known as auto-antonyms, antagonyms, contronyms, and words having contradefinitions. Many such contradefinitions arise from slang usage. Others develop as a result of their frequent use in sarcasm.
A similar concept, where a commonly used phrase contains two words which have or can be construed to have definitions in opposition to each other is known as an oxymoron. See list of oxymorons for a list of examples.
There are two forms of contranyms: homographic, where two words with the same spelling can have opposing definitions; and homophonic, where two words with the same pronunciation can have opposing definitions. In general, the terms below are both homographic and homophonic contranyms.
Richard Lederer included a list of self-contradicting words in a chapter on Janus-faced words in his book Crazy English.
T-Rex in the November 2nd, 2007 edition of Dinosaur Comics describes this class of words as homographic homophonic autantonyms.
A; Awesome : The strict definition of this adjective is "fearsome, mighty"; but the now generally accepted slang usage roughly equates to "enjoyable, fun."; Against : Depending on context, this word can mean "towards" or "close to" ("against the wall"); otherwise it means "opposing" ("against the wind").
B; Before : Earlier or sooner than; or in the future of; awaiting as in "the golden age is before us". This arises from "before" representing "in front of," while time can be conceived of from the perspective of a person in the timeline ("the future is before us") or from an observer standing outside time ("the past is before the present").; Bolt : As a transitive verb, it means "to secure something in place (with a bolt)". But as an intransitive verb, it means "to leave or run away from (quickly)". The expression "you're bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted" means that one is acting to prevent something that has already happened.; Borrow : American slang. Usually means to be on the receiving end of a loan, as in, "Bob, may I borrow your rake?" It is often also used as slang to describe the act of lending, as in, "Bob, will you borrow me your rake?"; Buckle : As a verb construction of the noun buckle, which is a device for clasping a belt together, it means "to secure, tighten, hold"; otherwise, it means "to weaken, collapse".
C; Check (cheque) : Like bill, this can either refer to a bank check, having a positive monetary value; or to a restaurant check, which is a statement of money owed.; Cleave : To cleave means both to separate and to cling together.; Commencement : As a noun form of the verb commence, this should mean "the start"; however the most popular use of the term is for university graduation ceremonies, at the end of schooling. (It should be noted that the intent of the term is to mean "the start of professional life", but this is not the primary perception of the event.); Constrain : can mean both "to force to" and "to repress".; Continue : The verb continue means "to keep doing"; however the noun form continuation, in legal usage, means "to pick up later".; Critical : Can mean "vital to success" (a critical component), or "disparaging" (a critical comment).
D; Dispose : As a past tense verb, disposed means "removed" or "gotten rid of"; as an adjective; disposed means "available".; Dusting : When dusting furniture, this means "to remove dust from"; but when "dusting for fingerprints", or when used as a noun ("a dusting of snow"), it means respectively "to apply dust" or "the application of dust".
E; Enduring : Can mean either "long lasting" or "suffering through". In some context this can lead to antonymic word play, as Noam Chomsky pointed out in connection with George W. Bush's name for the war in Afghanistan: "Enduring Freedom".; Execute : To execute a person is to end their life; to execute a program is to start it [Note: This contradiction arises from a shift in meaning of execution in the sense of capital punishment; what is being executed is technically the sentence of death (i.e. it is being started, just like starting a program), but the usage has shifted away from the sentence and to the prisoner]. [RLC 19 July 2007]
H; Hardly: Either barely just, or with extreme powet
L; Lease : To lend or to borrow.; Let : As a verb usually means "allow"; in an older (but not obsolete) sense it means "prevent".
O; Original : Original either means plain, or unchanged (as in original flavour), or it could mean something creative or new (an original idea).; Oversight : When used as a general concept, this word is the noun form of oversee, which means "to manage and be in charge of". But when used to refer to a specific incident, it becomes the noun form of overlook, meaning "error" or lapse in proper management.
P; Peer : Strictly, a peer is someone on the same social level as you; but in chiefly British usage, a peer is a person having a title of nobility (and so at a higher social level than the general populace).; Peruse : Although considered an error by most usage experts, the word peruse is commonly understood to mean "to skim over" or "to glance at." The accepted definition is "to examine closely."; Public : As a noun, it refers to the common people of a society; however as an adjective, it normally refers to things operated by the government. (Of course, such government operations are maintained for public use. Furthermore, under representative democracy, the people and the government are considered one and the same by definition.)
Q; Quiddity : Can mean either the essence of a thing or a quibble.
R; Raveling: means both to entangle and to untangle; Reservation : as a concrete noun, this can be "a confirmation" of availability; as an abstract noun, it is "a fear or uncertainty".; Riot : A riot is usually a chaotic spree of violence and destruction; but in more casual use it can refer to a funny story or a good party. (Outside observers may argue that this last definition often resembles the first.)
S; Scan : Originally, this word meant "to examine closely," but has come to mean "to look over hastily".; Secreted : Usually obvious due to context; but this can mean either "hidden" (secreted away), or "exposed" (secreted from a wound). The former is the verb form of "secret", and is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable. The latter is the past tense of "secrete" and is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable.; Several : Originally meaning "separate, single, or individual", (as in "the several states" referred to in the US Constitution) it is now understood to mean "plural, more than two". ; Show-stopper : In the standard usage, this means "something that is strikingly attractive or has great popular appeal". Recent usage particularly in the computer industry has "A bug that makes an implementation effectively unusable".;Skin : To add skin, or to remove it. "Skin that deer" "Skin that kayak".; Stakeholder : Historically and legally means to hold (but not have an interest in) a stake; however, the term is now sometimes used, especially re corporate governance, to reference one who does have an interest in an issue.; Suspicious : Can mean that a person is acting in a way that suggests wrong-doing, i.e. "He seems very suspicious." or can mean that the person in question suspects wrong doing in others, i.e. "He was suspicious of her motives."
T; Temper : As a verb, it can either mean to soften or mollify, or to strengthen (e.g. a metal).; Trim : Similar to clip: it can mean "to add decoration to" (trim the (Christmas) tree), or "to remove from" (trim the bushes).
U; Unshelled : Not removed from their shells (adjective) or having been removed from their shells (the past tense and past participle of "to unshell"). The ambiguity therefore arises when in the adjective is used predicatively, as in "The eggs were unshelled", which can mean "The eggs had not been removed from their shells" or "The eggs were removed from their shells" (someone unshelled them).
W; Wicked : Similar to awesome above, the strict definition of the adjective is "evil"; the now generally accepted slang usage (barring regional quirks) is roughly equivalent to "very good".
autopsy, bone, browse, canvass, check, check out, check over, check up on, con, contemplate, dig, drill, elucubrate, examine, eye, give an examination, give the eye, give the once-over, go over, grind, hard look, inspect, leer, leer at, look at, look over, lucubrate, monitor, observe, ogle, ogle at, overhaul, overlook, pass over, pass under review, peer at, plunge into, pore, pore over, postmortem, practice, read, regard studiously, restudy, review, run over, scan, scrutinize, set an examination, size, size up, study, survey, swot, take a long, take stock of, take the measure, vet, wade through