Do You Know What a Janus Word Is?


I love the tips offered by “Gram­mar Girl” Mignon Fog­a­rty on her web­site and pod­casts, and in her email newslet­ters and books. The fol­low­ing is copied from her email newslet­ter which I received today. Very interesting!

What Is a Janus Word?

Bob wrote, “How about weigh­ing in on the word ‘sanc­tion.’ I am con­tin­u­ally con­fused by see­ing the word used in con­texts in which it appears to mean approved by an author­ity, and oth­er­wise condemned.”

Sanc­tion” is some­thing called a Janus word–a word with two oppo­site mean­ings. Such words are named after the Roman god Janus who has two faces that look in oppo­site direc­tions. Other Janus words are “cleave” (which can mean to cling to or to sep­a­rate), “screen” (which can mean to review or dis­play or to hide or shield from view), and “trim” (which can mean to remove things or add things).

Can you think of other Janus words? Please share in a com­ment here!

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