Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The use of a word or phrase in a sense contrary to its normal meaning for ironic or humorous effect, as in a mere babe of 40 years.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Use of a word or phrase in a sense not in accord with its literal meaning, especially for ironic or humorous effect

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The use of words in a sense opposite to their proper meaning; as when a court of justice is called a court of vengeance.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In rhetoric, the use of a word in a sense opposite to its proper meaning, or when its opposite should have been used; irony, used either in sarcasm or in humor.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the use of a word in a sense opposite to its normal sense (especially in irony)

Etymologies

Late Latin, from Greek, from antiphrazein, to express by the opposite : anti-, anti- + phrazein, to speak; see phrase.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
anti- +‎ phrasis (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Paralipsis, also known as praeteritio, preterition, cataphasis, antiphrasis, or parasiopesis, is a rhetorical figure of speech wherein the speaker or writer invokes a subject by denying that it should be invoked.

    Obama says George Bush is "a good guy," "a good man," and "a good person."

  • In a similar way, by antiphrasis, the name of coccyx, a cuckoo, was given to the poor husband into whose nest a stranger intruded.

    A Philosophical Dictionary

  • Some others, again, have obtained their denominations by way of antiphrasis, or contrariety; as

    Five books of the lives, heroic deeds and sayings of Gargantua and his son Pantagruel

  • I believe that war is in Latin called bellum, not by antiphrasis, as some patchers of old rusty Latin would have us to think, because in war there is little beauty to be seen, but absolutely and simply; for that in war appeareth all that is good and graceful, and that by the wars is purged out all manner of wickedness and deformity.

    Five books of the lives, heroic deeds and sayings of Gargantua and his son Pantagruel

  • It cannot be alleged that there is an antiphrasis in the word of benediction, as if it were used in a sense contrary to what is usual; because it plainly appears to be applied by Moses in a good, and not an evil sense.

    Commentary on Genesis - Volume 2

  • Foucault's final words on the late-eighteenth-century transformation of the treatment of mental illness describe it as "that gigantic moral imprisonment which we are in the habit of calling, doubtless by antiphrasis, the liberation of the insane by Pinel and Tuke" (p. 278).

    An Exchange with Michel Foucault

  • The friend who presented me with him had given him, perhaps by antiphrasis, the startling name of Pelléas.

    Our Friend the Dog

  • It would be tedious to go over all the rest in this way; for the speech of the vulgar makes use of them all, even of those more curious figures which mean the very opposite of what they say, as for example, those called irony and antiphrasis.

    On Christian Doctrine, in Four Books

  • Now, they were taunted with their very name, as having been bestowed upon them "by antiphrasis," i.e. by contraries.

    Chaucer

  • The jealous mistress was constantly threatening to stab her lover, and he dubbed her Mignonne, by antiphrasis; in memory of her he gave the same name to the panther.

    Repertory of the Comedie Humaine Part 2

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