When is Santa actually Satan? Can someone who is demonical really be a docile man? When you create a new word from the letters of another word, and that new word has the opposite meaning, it’s called an antigram. Creating antigrams is no small feat, but appreciating them is the privilege of a true wordsmith.
Antigrams: When Opposites Attract ... the Same Word
The word antigram is a portmanteau of antonym (opposite meaning) and anagram (a word created with the letters of another). Antigrams are an especially clever way for word lovers to exercise their vocabulary skills, as the new word must use all of the original letters and have the opposite meaning.
Antagonist - Not Against
The antagonist of a story is the character whose motivation goes against the protagonist's (main character's) goals. "Not against" definitely doesn't describe an antagonist.
Customers - Store Scum
Those who have worked in customer service may not agree, but in general, customers aren't generally considered "scum" in the stores where they shop.
Dormitories - Tidier Rooms
No one who’s ever stepped foot in a dormitory would describe the rooms as “tidier.” (At least not once the students have moved in.)
Earliest - Arise Late
The earliest bird gets the worm — but what about the bird that may “arise late?” No one would argue that these antigrams describe birds (or people) on very different schedules.
Funeral - Real Fun
Funerals are somber and emotional experiences. Unless your sense of humor is more morbid than most (or you’re deep in a Goth phase), you wouldn't describe one as "real fun."
Inferno - Non-Fire
An inferno is a large, out-of-control fire that can quickly become destructive. Knowing that the antigram for “inferno” is “non-fire” may be of little reassurance in such a situation.
Misfortune - It's More Fun
In the midst of misfortune, it’s hard to find any fun at all. That’s why its antigram, “it’s more fun,” is quite the antonymous statement.
Saintliness - Entails Sins
A person who possesses saintliness is without sin. The antigram "entails sins" certainly would describe their opposite.
Teacher - Cheater
If there's anything a teacher dreads, it's having a cheater in class. That's why it's particularly bad luck that the antigram for "teacher" is "cheater."
United - Untied
The word “untied” is a common misspelling for “united.” Even worse, they’re antigrams — writing one instead of the other provides the opposite meaning in your sentence.
Violence - Nice Love
Violence and love have no business being in the same sentence, much less the same word.
Well-Being - We'll Binge
Regulation is key to one's well-being. Its antigram, "we'll binge," isn't exactly a healthy habit.
Do single-word antigrams seem too simple? Check out these multi-word phrases that manage to reflect an opposite sentiment.
A Volunteer Fireman - I Never Run to a Flame
A volunteer fireman needs to be ready for fire-related danger at every turn. Someone who never runs to a flame isn't going to be much help at a big fire.
I Am Flustered - I, Made Restful
When you tell someone “I am flustered,” you’re likely in a stressful or agitated mindset. Its antigram, “I, made restful” may only be possible after some meditation and CBD oil.
Voting Honestly - Voting on the Sly
If you’ve ever “voted on the sly,” you’ve filled out a ballot for someone who you may not vocally support outside the polling station. It’s a fitting antigram to “voting honestly.”
Within Earshot - I Won't Hear This
If you can hear something, you're in earshot. But what if you refuse to hear it? Scrambling “within earshot” results in a surprisingly combative antigram.
Find the Antigrams
Now for the ultimate test: Can you unscramble the following words and phrases to find their antigrams?
Could you figure out all the antigrams? Some were trickier than others!
ailed - ideal
reliable - a libeler
butchers - cut herbs
filled - ill-fed
diplomacy - mad policy
Playing With Words
Using antigrams and other examples of wordplay in your writing not only expresses your mastery of the English language, but it also amuses even the most reluctant readers. Find more wordplay ideas and examples to keep the fun going.