Auto-antonyms Exercise (241)

An auto-antonym is a word that can be used with opposite meanings. Decide which meaning is meant by the words in boldface type in the following sentences.

  • Sir Gawain prepared to cleave the giant’s head from his green body.

  • Sir John Falstaff was a man of a sanguine nature who frequented taverns and spent time with Prince Hal.

  • The detective was told that if he disregarded protocol one more time, he would be sanctioned.

  • Before putting the doughnuts in the oven, dust them with confectioner’s sugar.

  • Smythe was responsible for the oversight that resulted in a shut-down that lasted 12 hours.

Answers and Explanations

1. Sir Gawain prepared to cleave the giant’s head from his green body.

Correct: separate
Cleave can mean either "to divide by a cutting blow," or "to stick fast to something." Example: "The politician cleaved to his convictions."

2. Sir John Falstaff was a man of a sanguine nature who frequented taverns and spent time with Prince Hal.

Correct: cheerful
Sanguine comes from the word blood and can mean blood-red or bloody. As a descriptor of a certain personality type, it means "cheerful" or "optimistic."

3. The detective was told that if he disregarded protocol one more time, he would be sanctioned.

Correct: penalized
Sanction can mean either "ratify, approve" or "penalize, punish." The detective is acting contrary to established procedure, so he is in danger of punishment.

4. Before putting the doughnuts in the oven, dust them with confectioner’s sugar.

Correct: sprinkle them with sugar
Dust as a verb can mean either "apply something like dust to a surface" or "clear something of dust or other small particles." Example: "Please dust the furniture before you finish cleaning."

5. Smythe was responsible for the oversight that resulted in a shut-down that lasted 12 hours.

Correct: negligence
Oversight can mean either "supervision" or "unintentional failure to notice." A manager has oversight of his department.

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