Not long ago, I was wondering at how some words got to have two opposite meanings. There were two I knew of immediately: sanction, which means both “to allow” and “to prohibit”; or peer, which means both one’s equal (“a jury of one’s peers”) and one’s superior (“a peer of the realm”).
Much pondering gave me some other examples:
first degree which is the worst sort of murder but the least worst sort of burn;
handicap, which can mean an advantage, or a disadvantage;
to lease, offering something for rent or being the one who rents it;
and strike, either to hit something or (in baseball) to not hit something.
A friend of mine found me this jaw-dropping list of 75 words that contradict themselves. It contains examples that had never occurred to me, like custom and transparent, among others.
Got any favorite self-contradicting words? Let me know in the comments.