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What Is a Contronym in Writing?

In this post, learn what contronym is, including the definition of a contronym and example contronyms.

On this site, I've discussed the differences between antonyms, homonyms, and synonyms, but I recently came across a new (to me) term: contronym. And it's actually a pretty useful term and idea, especially for writers who like playing around with meaning and interpretation. So let's peel back what a contronym is.

What Is a Contronym in Writing?

What Is a Contronym?

A contronym is a word that has two opposite meanings. For instance, the word rock can be used to describe someone or something that is unmovable or unshakable; however, rock can also describe the motion of someone or something moving and shaking (possibly even violently).

(Grammar Rules for Writers)

In essence, a contronym is a word that is contrary to itself. As such, contronyms offer writers the opportunity to play with double meanings (and in this case, those meanings can be contradictory).

Examples of Contronyms

There are many contronyms available to writers, but here are a few examples to get you started:

  • bolt, which means to secure in place or to escape
  • buckle, which means to fasten two pieces or refers to breaking apart
  • dust, which means to add small particles to something or to remove small particles from something
  • finish, which means to complete something or to destroy something
  • fix, which means to repair or to break
  • garnish, which means to add (as with a salad) or to take away (as with a salary)
  • refrain, which means to stop or to repeat
  • sanction, which means to approve or to boycott
  • skin, which means to cover (with a skin) or to remove (a skin)
  • weather, which means to withstand (possibly a storm) or to wear away (possibly as a result of storms)

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Grammar and Mechanics

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

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