I enjoy getting the newsletter from They recently published a newsletter on autoantonyms. An autoantonym is a word with two opposite meanings. I didn’t particularly like their examples, but the whole thing is here if you’d like to read it.

My favorite autoantonym is “sanction.”

  • This is an officially sanctioned 5K rum.
  • The FIFA soccer officials were sanctioned.

My late, lovely, lesbian friend Dennise (how’s that for alliteration?) and I shared an office at a company where we were technical writers together. We had a manager who could be rather tightly wound at times, and when Dennise said that she might do something or another, I told her, “You’d better get sanctioning for that or you might be sanctioned.”

I love our English language.

2 Comments on “autoantonyms”

  1. Tahoe Mom says:

    I had told Dean I was going to watch my diet, and asked him not to comment on it. Shortly after a long hike, I said that I knew what I had told him but I was going to eat a brownie anyway. He says, “You have consumed a lot of calories today.” I burst into tears. Told him I had asked him not to bug me. To which he replied, “but honey, you have used a lot of calories today and should have a brownie.” OH – he meant “used up” a lot of calories rather than “eaten” a lot of calories.I think that qualifies for an autoantonym.

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