Monday, August 27, 2007

Nym Words

A few months ago, I taught little Dif the meaning of homonym, synonym and antonym. Most of you know what those three things are. What most of us don't know is that there is a whole bunch of words that end in 'nym' that we never really think about.

I found the list here . I thought I'd toss in a few of the more interesting ones but I encourage you to go read through the entire list. You never know when knowledge like this will come in handy.

  • Autoantonym - A word that can take two or more opposite meanings. (Ex. "Fast" can mean "moving quickly" or "stay in place" (i.e. "stand fast"). Contranym is a synonym for autoantonym.
  • Heteronym - Two or more words that have the same spelling but different pronunciations and meanings. "Please excuse me while I think of an excuse." There are also different categories of heteronyms. Learn more about them here. It does seem like many of the heteronyms have meanings are are close but technically different. The phrase "excuse me" clears the way as it were. The phrase "give an excuse" also clears the way in a slightly different context. Obviously this does not hold true with all examples such as "wind the clock" and "the wind is blowing".
  • Hypernym - A word that has a more general meaning than another. For example a motorcycle is a type of vehicle. "Vehicle" is the hypernym. Hyponym would be a word that is more specific. "Motorcycle" would be the hyponym in this example. I've been teaching these to my daughter without knowing the type of word it is.
  • Oronym - A string of words which sounds like another string of words. "Ice cream" sounds like "I scream." The entry on the main page links to more examples.
  • Retronym - An adjective-noun paring generated by a change in the meaning of the base noun. "Watch" became "pocket watch" because of the introduction of the wristwatch. I never considered this function of language before now. I am stuck for other examples; help me out. Remember though, the base noun must have been changed.
I get such a kick out of this stuff!