Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Words with two opposites

I'm sure this is the sort of thing that most people do when they first learn to speak, rather than decades later. But I realised yesterday that I couldn't think of any words that had more than one opposite meaning.

That is: "good" has one opposite. Namely, "bad".

Likewise, the one opposite of "on" is "off".

Therefore, I was delighted this evening to realise that "lost" has two opposites: "won" and "found".


Now I think about it, I'm sure there are thousands of others. Presumably all one has to do is analyse every heteronym in the language.

Still... I enjoyed my victory.


(Now I think about it, it's not obvious that "on" only has one opposite. Presumably "under" is also valid. I suppose I should be pleased to have found another. But I'm actually a little irritated that it's so easy to find them)


Matt Brubeck said...

Any word with two different meanings probably has two opposites.

"Short" has "long" and "tall."

As Richard Stallman knows, "free" has "expensive" and "imprisoned."

"Live" has both "dead" and "recorded"...

Henry said...

And as CLEAVE has two distinct meanings - (1) to separate and (2) to join - it also has two opposites: CLEAVE and CLEAVE, respectively.

Malide said...

"Right" has "left" and "wrong"

Anonymous said...

Stand has sit and lie,lay,prone,or horizontal