Sanction: Two Meanings

I was writing a policies and procedures manual yesterday; I was required to include a section on sanctions.  Hmmm, I thought, I need to review this word.  What I discovered made my day!

Sanction comes from the root word sanctus (to make holy) and has two opposite meanings.  Two completely different meanings which come from one source.  There is fodder here, my friends. 

Sanction is one of three words in English which have two contradictory meanings. 

    Sanction:  1.  to allow, encourage   –   Do you sanction sloppiness?
                    2.  to punish so as to deter  –    Do you sanction sloppiness?

    Dust:         1.  to remove dust from   – I need to dust my wood floors.
                     2.  to put dust on  – I will dust the cake with powdered sugar.

    Trim:         1.  to cut something away  –  I need to trim my slideshow.
                     2.  to add something as an ornament  – Would you trim the tree?

I am reminded of the homonyms raise and raze which have opposite meanings: to build up and to tear down.  So if you hear someone say he is going to [raise/raze] a house, you wouldn’t really know what was going to happen, would you? 

Words.  Intoxicatingly wonderful.

***Addendum*** Ruthie mentioned cleave:   1.  To join together
                                                                      2.  To separate.


5 thoughts on “Sanction: Two Meanings

  1. word play – lots of fun.BTW I think of *holy* (sanctus) as *set apart*, especially in a Biblical sense.  I love the idea of countries placing *sanctions* on other countries….Hope someone reads your policies and procedures manual 🙂

  2. Yes about holy = set apart.  But it takes both encouragement and punishment to get there.About the manual: not even, Dana.  I don’t think anyone will ever read it, but we’re required to have it.  Loathsome nanny government regulations.

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