An autoantonym is a word or phrase which "contradicts itself"; that is, has two distinct meanings, which are opposite. Such words are sometimes called "Janus words", after the two-headed Roman god, or "antagonyms" or "contranym".

Some examples include:

There is a related, and rather amusing pasttime, which involves picking a word and its opposite, and then finding a path of synonyms that leads from one to the other, using, say, Roget's Thesaurus as arbiter. Thus a hopeful person is expectant, hence anticipating, anxious, fearful, and so in fact despairing!

A tip o' the formal hat to Jumpin' Jeff Borggaard.

Last revised on 24 March 2022.