This is in the spirit of the What is a Word/Phrase™ series started by JLee with a special brand of Phrase™ and Word™ puzzles.

If a word conforms to a special rule, I call it a Conflicted Word™.

Use the following examples below to find the rule.

Conflicted Words

And, if you want to analyze, here is a CSV version:

Conflicted Words™,Not Conflicted Words™
  • $\begingroup$ It's always good to see one of these in the HNQ list. One stylistic suggestion: for me, a big part of the beauty of JLee's puzzles is that the pairs of words or phrases are synonyms. $\endgroup$ Aug 30, 2016 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby I usually do that but, given the basis of this particular puzzle, I thought it better to pick a different pairing rule. In this case, that was rhyming. $\endgroup$ Aug 30, 2016 at 21:52

1 Answer 1


It would seem that a Conflicted Word is

one that has two different meanings that are somehow opposed to one another.

For instance,

to SANCTION something can mean either to approve of it or to punish it. Having OVERSIGHT over something means monitoring and supervising it (note: "supervising" and "oversight" are basically translations of one another) but an OVERSIGHT is when you fail to notice something. You can DUST something either by adding or removing dust.

I confess that not all the cases below are as convincing as those.

ALIGHT -- means "to get down from", but according to the OED it could once also mean "to get up onto". (Its most recent citation is from 1569, though.)
CLIP -- a clip holds things fixed; to move "at a clip" is to go quickly. Or, as kayzeroshort points out, if something is held fixed by a clip you could free it again by clipping the, er, clip.
DUST -- wiping dust off a surface is dusting; but e.g. covering a cake with icing sugar or a field of crops with insecticide can also be dusting.
ENTITLED -- this has always meant "having a right to something", but more recently it has come to be used to mean "feeling that one has a right to something", especially in cases where by any reasonable standard one actually has no such right.
FAST -- if something is "held fast" it is fixed firmly in place; but if it is "moving fast" it presumably isn't.
LAST -- can mean "previous" (hence earlier) or "final" (hence later), though these are less conflicting than they sound (the "previous" meaning should really be understood as "final, among things preceding this one"). [This pair is from the Wikipedia page linked in duger's answer.]
LEFT -- if something has left, it's gone; if it is left, it's not gone.
OFF -- At 6am, the alarm went off ... but after being ignored for ten minutes, the alarm went off. [This pair is from the Wikipedia page linked in duger's answer.]
OVERSIGHT -- an oversight is a failure to notice something; having oversight over something is being responsible for it and watching carefully what it does.
RENT -- if I let you stay in my house while you pay me for the privilege, I am renting the house to you and you are renting it from me. [From the Wikipedia page linked from duger's answer.]
REPLACE -- "My computer was getting memory failures, so I went to the shop and replaced the RAM modules." versus "My computer was getting memory failures, so I replaced the RAM modules more securely in their sockets"; this is the pair given on the Wikipedia page linked from duger's answer, though personally I don't find it a very convincing opposition.
RESIGNED -- "I had a chance to extend my contract, so I re-signed" versus "They offered me the chance to extend my contract, but I resigned" as per kayzeroshort's suggestion in comments; personally I would always use the hyphen if the first meaning were in view.
SANCTION -- to sanction something can be to permit it or to punish it.
UNQUALIFIED -- "X is unqualified for this job" versus "I recommend X unqualifiedly", I guess. The Wikipedia page linked from duger's answer gives this pairing, but I really don't think it's an opposition.

  • $\begingroup$ BENT can mean crooked or inclination. COMBINED can mean put together or used a combine. $\endgroup$ Aug 30, 2016 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah. It has to be something more specific than the broadest version of what I wrote. But if it isn't anything of this kind then the presence of e.g. SANCTION and FAST in the list (plus the title) is a hell of a red herring. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Aug 30, 2016 at 12:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 'CLIP' can be 'to cut', which is opposite of 'to hold fixed'. And RE-SIGNED is the opposite of RESIGNED, vis-a-vis a contract. $\endgroup$ Aug 30, 2016 at 13:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ LAST as a verb could be never-ending, or as a noun/adjective meaning final, or end. $\endgroup$ Aug 30, 2016 at 13:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The Wikipedia page linked to by user duger suggests the LAST is its own antonym because it means both "previous" and "final", which also seems like a stretch but less of a stretch. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Aug 30, 2016 at 13:44

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