The opposite of homonym? But not really?
December 28, 2011 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Is there a word describing 2 words that sound the same but mean the opposite? And are there any more?

Specifically, I refer to "Raise" and "Raze" which are the opposite of each other (Raising a barn vs. Razing a barn). Is there a word for this? And are there any other word duos that fall into that category?
posted by I_Love_Bananas to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Homophonic antonyms?
posted by monkeymadness at 5:11 PM on December 28, 2011

And here's a list of "contronyms", words that are antonyms and are actually spelled the same.
posted by monkeymadness at 5:13 PM on December 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

My brother and I play a game that involves words that sound the same, but meaning is different. We've been doing it for a few years now (it's just a random thing we do through text).

Weight -Wait
Hi- High

And now I'm drawing a huge blank on all the words we have come up with. Is that what you're talking bout?
posted by Sweetmag at 6:04 PM on December 28, 2011

Sweetmag, those are simply homophones. The OP is looking specifically for homophones that are also opposites.
posted by flabdablet at 6:36 PM on December 28, 2011

Best answer: I've found a few pages that list examples of these, but none that give them a name. I think there are not very many (most pages seem to list the same 4 or 5 examples):


aural, oral - heard, spoken
erupt, irrupt - burst out, burst in
petalless, petalous - lacking petals, having petals
posted by ManInSuit at 8:07 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

affect, effect
posted by JujuB at 8:19 PM on December 28, 2011

How about cleave/cleave? Does this pair count because they are spelled the same?
posted by heathergirl at 8:32 PM on December 28, 2011

monkeymadness writes "And here's a list of 'contronyms', words that are antonyms and are actually spelled the same."

Woot! he accepted the US/UK difference between US and UK Public which opens up a big list of such cross cultural examples. Like my personal favourite: Table. Nothing livens up a Canadian-American discussion of a piece of legislation as halving half the participants using Table to mean put up for vote and the other half using table to mean retire without consideration at this time.

TVTropes has a mess of these.
posted by Mitheral at 8:38 PM on December 28, 2011

The word 'table' means opposite things depending if your in the US or in the rest of the English speaking world.

(please avoid using this term in business situations if you have a mix of American and non-American English speakers, it leads to inevitable confusion).
posted by el io at 11:12 PM on December 28, 2011

posted by MrMoonPie at 7:22 AM on December 29, 2011

> emigrate/immigrate

Those are not pronounced the same in most dialects (though I'm guessing they might be in New Zealand).
posted by languagehat at 5:08 PM on December 29, 2011

My favorite contranym, or as I usually call it, "auto-antonym":

Tool: a useful object
Tool: a useless person

Kudos to my friend Krista, who came up with that one. We have a long-running game, trying to think up new ones. Plays are now months apart...
posted by IAmBroom at 2:42 PM on January 3, 2012

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