The definition of "stay" in a legal dictionary suggests: "A stay is a suspension of a case or a suspension of a particular proceeding within a case.", but the word stay is known to mean: "remain in a specified state or position." as it suggests the definition "remain" does not change the state of something.

Why did they chose the word "stay" to mean suspension?

In a second case we have:

"Will Asian Americans Bolt From the Democratic Party?" where bolt means to run away. But "Bolt" implies: "fasten (a door or window) with a bar that slides into a socket." it is more like uniting things, not splitting them.

Is it not a good choice of a word to use bolt to mean run away?

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    Maybe they couldn't care less? Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 4:19
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    Attach would be "bolt to", not from.
    – nigel222
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 10:06

3 Answers 3


Stay in this context doesn't really have two different meanings. If you stop moving, you stay where you are. The suspension of a legal case isn't a change, just a pause.

According to Oxford Languages, the bolt you secure a door with comes from a word meaning an arrow or bar, and the verb to bolt originally meant 'fly like an arrow'.

  • I havem't perceived before the stay detail you've mentioned. You are right and the bolt part I didn't know about Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 13:26
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    The key connection for the latter is that the pointed ammunition you load into a bow is called an "arrow" while the pointed ammunition you load into a crossbow is traditionally called a "bolt".
    – J...
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 19:27
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    so in the "Bolt" sentence: "Will Asian Americans Bolt From the Democratic Party?" the Bolt would be making an allusion to move away fast? or something like that? Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 11:42
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    @henrykearaudjo Yes, in that sentence "bolt" means "run away" or "flee". The question is asking whether Asian Americans will respond to the situation by leaving the Democratic Party in large numbers. It's often also used with prey animals like deer, gazelles, etc - when they spot a predator they will bolt, so the word does carry some suggestion that people are leaving maybe out of a bit of fear, uncertainty, panic, disgust, etc.
    – J...
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 13:01

These are well-known examples of auto-antonyms

Language (with very rare exceptions) is how it is, not how somebody thinks it ought to be.

  • While Bolt is covered in the article, there's no reference to stay which I don't think is an auto-antonym.
    – Jontia
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 13:29
  • 1
    You're right, I didn't read to carefully: stay isn't an autantonym. I was thinking of let which has an old meaning (obsolete except for tennis and legal formulas) of "hinder".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 3, 2022 at 15:46
  • Upvoting because auto-antonyms are real and surprisingly common in English, even if OP's case doesn't fit. (I've also heard them jokingly called "antagonyms.") And OP's question is: can they exist? The answer is yes.
    – Tom
    Commented Mar 5, 2022 at 22:04

A "stay" in the legal sense is exactly what it says -- a "hold in position" command, before a change in status or an action is carried out. A judge can even issue an order (which would be a change when it goes into effect) and a temporary stay on the order at the same time. Thus, the current position before the order's execution is held. If one judge issues an order, and another issues a stay on the order, it holds the proceedings in place -- by not allowing the order to be implemented.

From Black's Law Dictionary: STAY -- A stopping; the act of arresting a judicial proceeding, by the order of a court.

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