5 Words and Their Nonantonymic Antonyms
Some words appear to be antonyms of other words because they consist of one of those words preceded by an antonymic prefix. However, the sense of the prefixed word may be only tangentially related to the root word. Here are some examples of such mismatches:
1. Apprehension/misapprehension: The most common sense of apprehension is of foreboding (“A cloud of apprehension enveloped her”), and it refers to capture (“The apprehension of the suspect followed quickly”), but it also means “perceiving or comprehending,” and it is this sense that applies in the antonym, which means “misunderstanding.” (The root word, apprehend, is from the Latin word for “to seize or grasp”; comprehend is related, as is reprehend — literally, “to hold back from grasping” — which means “to disapprove.”)
2. Alliance/misalliance: An alliance (the root word, ally, stems from the Latin word for “to bind”) is an association between two or more parties. A misalliance is technically defined in the literal antonymic sense of an inappropriate union, but it is seldom used that way; it usually refers to a marriage between mismatched partners. (The French forebear, mesalliance, is even more specific in denoting a person’s romantic liaison with someone beneath them in social standing.)
3. Demeanor/misdemeanor: Demeanor refers to someone’s manner or behavior, but misdemeanor is a legal term for a minor crime (though it can also generically mean simply “an offense”). By the way, demean, from the Latin word for “lead,” is the rarely used verb form of the former. The demean we usually employ is a homonym meaning “to degrade or put down” (from the German word for “to have in mind”).
4. Fortune/misfortune: Fortune (from the Latin word for “chance” or “luck”) has three distinct meanings: “wealth,” “destiny,” or “luck.” Misfortune is antonymic only to the latter sense; it does not refer to a dearth of riches or an absence of fate.
5. Giving/misgiving: Giving is the act of offering something. A misgiving, however, is a doubtful feeling about an impending event. Both words derive from a Scandinavian ancestor, with a Latin near cognate that means “to have.” The rare verb form misgive means “to be fearful” or “to suggest fear or doubt.”
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