One of my very first Words of the Week was the word cleave. I’ve long found it interesting that the word has two meanings, which are opposite each other:
Cleave, definition 2 – to stick, cling, adhere to something closely.
But then as the years went on and English evolved into what we now call Middle English, the second cleave came along…from a totally different word. This one is from the West-Germanic klibajan, meaning “to stick.” Again, other languages have similar words that reflect this meaning.
Apparently from the get-go there was some confusion about the two meanings, because Cleave (1) had, by then, weakened a bit as a verb. It was no longer so strong and forceful a word, so introducing Cleave (2) that meant the opposite kinda messed with it even more, and also contributed to its continued weakening.
These days, we don’t often use either, and I have to wonder if in part it’s because of that confusion.