The Antonym Puzzler... Explained

The Antonym Puzzler

...Explained--And Some Of the Ones We Liked

We said there are at least two words in the English language that are their own antonyms. And, we mentioned "cleave" and "sanction" as two examples. You can cleave to something (i.e., attach yourself to it), and you can cleave away from something (i.e., peel away from it.) There's also "cleavage," which we wholeheartedly approve of, but which is completely irrelevant to this discussion. Similarly, you can sanction something (endorse it), or impose sanctions (prohibit it.)

So... our question was, are there other words that are their own antonyms? And, our listeners came up with many, many ideas.

We've picked out some of our favorites. We narrowed the list considerably, by requiring that the words be the same form of speech. So, "fast" doesn't count, because although its meanings can be opposite, in one case ("he is a fast runner"), it is an adjective, and in another ("I was held fast to my seat"), it's an adverb.

Here are the ones we liked:


...which means to add dust or remove dust, as in "I'm going to dust the furniture," or, "I'm going to dust for fingerprints."



...which means to tangle, or to untangle.


...which means either "awesome" or "terrible." As in, "I've got a terrific headache," or, "That was a terrific vacation."


seed add seeds or remove seeds, as in "I seeded my lawn," or, "I seeded the watermelon."

Then, there were others, like "skin"... to put skin on, or to remove skin, as in, "you can skin a cat," or, "you can skin a drum."

Those were the ones we liked. Don't agree with us? Fine. File a formal protest. Note: All protests must include dictionary definitions. (Protests submitted without authentic dictionary definitions will be forwarded to

Got more examples? Send them in!

[ Really hard puzzlers ]

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