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More Janus Words


The month January takes its name from Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions (and so it is appropriate that January is the month that marks the transition into the New Year). Janus is usually depicted with two heads – one looking back into the past, and the other looking forward to the future.

Last January we looked at 20 Janus words. A Janus word is a word with contradictory meanings. These words are also known as contronyms and auto antonyms.

Here are some more examples of Janus words:

  • Apology: an expression of regret for causing someone trouble, a formal written defence of something
    • I owe you an apology for using your computer without asking first.
    • She wrote an apology for the hunting ban.
  • Bill: a payment, an invoice/to invoice
    • We argued over who would pay the restaurant bill.
    • They forgot to bill us for our dessert.
  • Buckle: to fasten, to fold/collapse
    • She buckled her belt.
    • The bench buckled under the weight of the bags.
  • Cleave: to stick, to sever/split
    • He was so nervous his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth.
    • She cleaved wood for the fire.
  • Custom: a common/traditional practice, something that is bespoke/made-to-order
    • One Christmas custom is to exchange gifts.
    • He bought her a custom guitar for Christmas.
  • Hold up: to support, to obstruct
    • We held up the frame where we wanted to hang it to see how it would look.
    • I held my parents up while my sister could sneaked out.
  • Literally: actually, figuratively
    • The teacher hadn’t meant for his students to take him literally when he told them he expected them to spend every minute of the day studying.
    • ‘I expect you to be revising literally every minute of every day,’ her mother told her.
  • Model: an excellent example of a particular quality, a copy or representation of something
    • The new building was a model of innovative architecture.
    • They asked for a model, to scale, of the planned building.
  • Off: activated, deactivated
    • The alarm went off.
    • The alarm was off.
  • Overlook: to fail to notice/to ignore, to supervise
    • He was overlooked for a promotion.
    • She overlooked several large projects and managed a team of fifty.
  • Put out: to extinguish, toproduce and circulate
    • ‘Don’t forget to put out the campfire before you go to sleep,’ she warned.
    • Ms Thomas, the English teacher, supervised the students who put out to school newspaper.
  • Quiddity: the inherent nature of something, a peculiar or distinctive feature
    • His work explores the quiddity of human experience.
    • She found his quirks and quiddities attractive.
  • Temper: to strengthen, to soften/dilute/neutralise
    • They gave us a tempered steel pan as a house-warming gift.
    • The hot sun was tempered by a light breeze.
  • Trip: a journey, a stumble
    • We’re taking a short trip to Europe.
    • He tripped over his untied shoelace.

Have a good week!


15 Jan 2018
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