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"Unless the current practice": The meaning of 'sanctioned'

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http://gre.magoosh.com/questions/2467

 

Question

If "sanctioned" means giving approval to something, does this mean we are giving approval to deforestation?

 

Answer

"Sanctioned" is a very interesting word because it does in fact have two meanings that are almost the opposite of each other:

1) Give official permission or approval for (an action). 2) Impose a penalty on.

In this question, "sanctioned" is the best answer choice based on definition 2. There are very few words like this, with two opposite meanings, and they are just a part of the idiosyncratic nature of the English language. Another example would be "cleave" which can mean both to separate and to hold together.

 

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