English is confusing sometimes.
  • The English language can be complicated and difficult to learn, from hard-to-spell words to words that are spelled the same by mean different things.
  • It is also filled with quirky phrases that often leave foreigners baffled.
  • "Contronyms" take the cake. These are words that have two opposite meanings.
  • For example, to "clip" can mean to cut apart or to attach together.
  • For more stories go to www.businessinsider.co.za.

If you clip something, are you cutting it or attaching it together? If something is transparent, is it invisible or obvious?

The answer, confusingly, could be either one.

A "contronym" is a word that has two contradictory meanings, and the English language is full of them.

Here are 15 common words that can mean two completely different things.


AMC/Breaking Bad screencap/Netflix

"Literally" can mean in a literal or figurative sense.


Sean Gallup/ Getty Images

"Variety" can mean a particular type or many types.


To "clip" can mean to cut apart or to attach together.


To "weather" can mean to wear away or to withstand.


To "dust" can mean to remove dust or to sprinkle something with a powder.


"Consult" can mean to seek advice or to give professional advice.


"Bill" can mean a paper bill of money or an invoice for a payment if someone owes money.


To "overlook" can mean to fail to notice or to see from a higher position.


"Buckle" can mean to fasten something together or to break or collapse.


A "refrain" can mean a repeating phrase or verse in a song or poem, while in verb form it can mean to stop doing something.


To "leave" can mean to depart or to leave something behind.


Joe Raedle/Getty

"Sanction" can mean to approve or to boycott.


To "peruse" can mean to read something carefully or to skim it.

Out of

"Out of" can mean outside or inside: "getting out of the house" versus "working out of a home office."


"Transparent" can mean invisible or obvious.

Receive a daily email with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: