Thursday, 7 January 2021


We quite enjoyed the panel discussion and examples explored in the descriptive phenomenon also called Janus words of enantiosemy—that is when term carries multiple meanings and can be its own opposite in a sense. 

Whereas some cases in English were distinct words with different spellings that converged over the years, like cleave which can signify both to separate and to adhere, others are single words, usually nouns made verbs, with the understanding that one can either suffer or permit—take away or add to, like sanction, oversight, dust, seed and bolt and left—to fix and to flee. The concurrence, which is surprisingly not taxing to understand given context, is not limited to linguistic fossils and the drift of centuries but is still occurring with terms like table, to bring up a topic or postpone its discussion, negative taking on their opposite connotations and drop in the sense of to abandon or to premiere. German has a few Beispiele other than equivalents to the English language ones as well including allerdings which is both however and naturally, of course and the term ausleihen—common with a few other languages—that is literally (another and sometimes dread-inducing auto-antonym) will you borrow me a dime, a distinction reliant on context.