It seems there are no questions on this site about it because I can't search out.

An auto-antonym (also called contronym, antagonym, Janus word, etc.) is a word whose antonym can be itself. For example, to dust can be to remove dust from, but also to make sth. dusty (although tagged as "archaic" in the dictionary).

I can't find any detailed list on search engines.

Below are some possible types of auto-antonyms I found:

  1. coincidences of different etymologies

that is called (← invocāre) or
that is not called (← vocāre)
of conquerers (← victor) or
of conquered ones (← victus)

  1. from different ways of metaphor (?)

to take out, to exclude (by emphasizing ex-) or
to receive, to take in (by emphasizing capere)
auspicious, lucky or unlucky, improper (due to the different augury customs between Romans and Greeks)
obēsus (?)
lean, meagre or fat, coarse

  1. branching of good and bad senses of adjectives (e.g. awful)

sacred, holy or accursed

  1. from translation; some concepts may be regarded as one but expressed by different foreign words
    (e.g. German leihen and Chinese jiè are translated as either to lend or to borrow)

host or guest
altus (from FlatAssembler's comment)
high, tall or deep, profound

Are there any other examples of auto-antonyms of Latin? Did ancient writers mention this linguistic mechanism?

  • 3
    A famous such word is "altus", which can mean both "high" (of a mountain) and "deep" (of a sea). Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 12:20
  • 2
  • 2
    @FlatAssembler If you read altus as "far in altitude", then it makes sense to be far in either direction (positive or negative altitude for a mountain or a sea) and the conflict is resolved. Some apparent conflicts from an English point of view are due differences in the logic of the two languages.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 12:46
  • 2
    "to make sth. dusty (although tagged as "archaic" in the dictionary)" is still used in some senses. When dusting something for fingerprints, the object ends up covered in dust. And there are products, such as Fairy Dust | Dusting Powder: "This sweet-smelling, post-shower powder is the perfect finishing touch to keep your skin feeling light, fresh and fragrant.". Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 13:13
  • 2
    for cat. 4 we can add clamor that can be used both in negative (protest) and positive (applause) senses.
    – d_e
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


perlego is a nice one in my opinion.

perlĕgō (pell-), ēgī, ēctum, ĕre, tr., ¶ 1 to scan with the eyes, to skim through: Virg. En. 6, 33; Ov. F. 1, 591 ¶ 2 to read thoroughly, to read from beginning to end: Cic. Div. 1, 8; Att. 13, 44, 2; Cæs. C. 1, 19 || to read aloud from start to finish: Pl. As. 748. ↣ form pell- Pl. As. 748; Bacch. 1037; Cic. *Att. 13, 44, 2.

  • Thank you for your example. Polysemy seems potential in some prefixed verbs. I can think of verbs with re-, which means undoing or doing again. Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 22:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.