Share This Spectacular Vernacular
A complex looking word that has a simple meaning referring to multiple meanings. Confused?
The root noun word polysemy comes from the Greek poly- (many) -sēma (signs) and today is defined as many meanings. It’s most commonly used in its adjective form such as polysemous words—words that have multiple meanings.
For example, prune may refer to a fruit or the act of trimming branches. Bank can be a financial institution, or the ground at the edge of a river.
Even more confusing are words that are spelled the same, yet have different sounds and meanings. For example, a wound is an injury, but wound is the past tense of wind.
The challenge for non-native speakers of English? Roughly half of all of our words have more than one meaning, so it can be quite challenging to learn the variations.