Arabic Observations: Words with Antonymic Meanings


root: ض-د-د / noun / plural: أَضْداد / definition: a word with two opposite meanings

So, we’ve all looked up Arabic words before where we’ve been greeted by a whole paragraph of definitions that we have to sift through. Pretty standard when dealing with Arabic dictionaries, right? But what about those words whose definitions are in fact… antonyms?

That’s right—there exists Arabic words with two completely opposite meanings.

To illustrate, here are just three Arabic verbs with antonymic definitions:

اِنْجَلى / يَنْجَلي

root: ج-ل-ي / form: VII

possible meanings: to disappear or to reveal itself

رَمَّمَ / يُرَمِّمُ

root: ر-م-م / form: II

possible meanings: to restore or to decay


  • you can observe a similar phenomenon in the form I verb of the same root: رَمَّ / يَرِمُّ can mean either to repair something or to rot

رَغِب / يَرْغَب

root: ر-غ-ب / form I

possible meanings: to desire or to detest


  • in this last example, the verb’s meaning is actually determined by the preposition following the it—i.e. رغب في = “to desire/want something” while رغب عن = “to dislike/detest something”
  • the same applies to the passive participle (اسم مفعول) of the verb—مَرغوب فيهِ = “desirable” while مَرغوب عَنْهُ = “undesirable”:

I would recommend looking up the derivatives of all of these verbs as you’ll find some of them are used to allude to only one of the meanings!

Have you come across any more Arabic words with antonymic meanings? Let us know in the comments below—and remember to share these posts with others!

And if you find these little linguistic gems intriguing, you should definitely check out the other posts in the Arabic Observations series too.

!مع السلامة

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