Bad meaning good [antagonyms]


Senior Member
English United States

Does any body know the name of the figure of speech or linguistic phenomenom in words that become the opposite of what they mean:

For example the use of "bad" to mean "good." The same thing happens in other languages so I was curious if there was a name for that. There HAS got to be one.

I heard terrific was once a bad thing and that terrible was considered good.

Thanks in advance.
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I have never heard of this word before, which means nothing really.
    I searched Google and found THIS SITE which certainly confirms that it is used, along with synonyms contranym and autoantonym.

    None of these words appears in the OED.


    Senior Member

    A list of Antagonyms compiled a by dermatology professor Charles Ellis, complemented by a list of Heteronyms. Last updated 1999.

    << longer necessary >>

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