Language/society where the word for love is the same as the word for hate?
November 3, 2009 8:40 PM   Subscribe

I seem to remember hearing or reading about an ancient society whose word for love was the same as their word for hate. But searching online I can't find anything like that. What culture/language was this? Or did someone just make up this story?
posted by Josh Coe to Society & Culture (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Metafilter superstar Languagehat posted something to his blog about the Urdu word 'lāg' , which apparently means both 'hate' and 'love'.

I don't know whether this word was in use in ancient times. I don't know anything about modern Urdu or whatever ancient languages it may have sprung from, sorry. I just googled.

If you want to search more, some useful terms are 'auto-antonym/autantonym', 'enatiodrome', 'self-antonym', 'contronym/contranym' 'antagonym' and 'Janus word', which are terms for these sorts of words that are their own antonyms. (Forgive me if you already knew this.)
posted by eatyourcellphone at 9:38 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ok - this is really killing me. This sounds really familiar - I swear I heard this recently too.

I may not be much help but it feels like it was in a movie or TV show in the past 6 months.

If we're thinking of the same thing, I thought it was an asian culture that had a symbol that represented both love and hate (depending on its use).
posted by siclik at 1:13 PM on November 4, 2009

This online Irish dictionary says there's an Irish word 'cais' which can mean either love or hate 'according to context'. And this dictionary (ctrl-F a few times for the relevant section) suggests that there are cognate words in other Celtic languages like Welsh and Breton, so it may be a quite old word. But a lot depends on what you mean by 'ancient', I suppose. But if siclik is right about it being Asian, this obviously can't be it.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 10:10 PM on November 4, 2009

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