Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Enantioseme Etc.

A technical term for auto-antonym (a word that can mean the opposite of itself) is enantioseme. Related words are enantiosemantic, enantiosemantics, enantiosemia, and enantiosemy. For an excellent discussion, see Jordan Finkin, "Enantiodrama: Enantiosemia in Arabic and Beyond," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 68 (2005) 369-386.

These words don't appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, although they are in use by scholars. Apparently the first person to use one of these words (enantiosemia) was Johann Arnold Kanne, in his Prolusio Academica de Vocabulorum Enantiosemia, sive Observationum de Confusione in Linguis Babylonicis Specimen (Nuremberg 1819), a book unavailable to me and also not cited by Finkin in his bibliography (pp. 385-386). The roots of the words are the Greek adjective ἐναντίος (enantios = opposite) and the Greek noun σῆμα (sēma = sign).

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