The top ten: Words with opposite meanings
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at King's College, London, and at Queen Mary University of London. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Sunday 06 April 2014
Following the Top 10 words that used to mean the opposite – words which had changed meaning over time, such as awful, presently and humbled – Stryker McGuire suggested I compile a list of words that can mean one thing and its opposite in contemporary English...
1. Public school Nominated by someone called MiniDiscsReturn.
2. Oversight Suggested by Alison Graham.
3. Buckle Nominated by Nick Reid.
4. Sanction To approve or to disapprove. From Stryker McGuire.
5. Cleave To split or to stick to. Apparently from different Old English roots. Nominated by Arieh Kovler.
6. Literally Thanks to Hopi Sen.
7. Fast Moving fast or stuck fast. From Edmund W.
8. Quite Not much or absolutely. Suggested by Alan Beattie, Hugh Kellett and Robert Hanks.
9. Qualified Means both falling short and meeting requirements. From Adrian Hilton.
10. Interesting Meaning either interesting or a stupid idea.
Next week: Last sentences in novels.
Coming soon: Malapropisms. Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to email@example.com
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