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A crane is a bird as well as a machine.

A date is a fruit as well as an outing with your boy/girl friend.

What are words with multiple meanings called?

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marked as duplicate by Kris, RyeɃreḁd, choster, Mari-Lou A, ermanen Apr 29 at 20:38

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Have you checked a thesaurus/ Googled for it? google.com/#q=%22word+with+multiple+meanings%22 –  Kris Apr 29 at 6:33
    
    
Possible Duplicate: english.stackexchange.com/q/105143/14666 –  Kris Apr 29 at 6:41
    
Iam sorry Kris i searched in google as (google.co.in/…). –  Emmanuel Angelo.R Apr 29 at 10:17
    
No probs, Emmanuel. 'Double meaning' would lead you to double entendre, 'word with multiple meanings' will get us 'polysemy' -- use the link I provided in the first comment. By the way, do you happen to be from India? –  Kris Apr 29 at 12:02

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There is the linguistic term polyseme for a word that has several meanings. The Greek word element poly- means much/many, the Greek word element -seme means sign, from Greek sêma sign. The phenomenon that words or in general signs can have a lot of meanings is called polysemy.

Wikipedia has an article on polysemy. Wikipedia, polysemy

Specialists distinguish the case that a word has a basic meaning and acquires various uses in different fields such as the word point. All uses of "point" can be understood as a metaphoric transfer into various areas.

There is the other case as can be seen in the word date which has meanings that come from the Latin verb dare to give and the verb form datum given. "date" as a fruit has another source. Actually we have two words, date 1 and date 2, but words can get the same spelling and pronunciation in the course of time.

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The term you're looking for is "polysemic."

polysemic (also polysemous): having more than one meaning; having multiple meanings. E.g. "Set" is a good example of a polysemic word.

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It's somewhat standard to include a definition in case of link rot. It makes for a better answer. :) –  medica Apr 29 at 5:50
    
I'm unable to verify with just online searching, but wouldn't "isonym" be a valid answer as well? –  bruised reed Apr 29 at 5:50

The two examples you provided are Homonyms (the words are pronounced the same in both cases, but mean different things), but the more general term for what you are asking is Homographs (same spelling, but the pronunciation can differ). An example of this is Bow- to bend over, or used in archery. There are also Homophones where the spelling is different, but the pronunciation is the same (eg, red and read).

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You may also be interested in auto-antonyms which are words which have two meanings but the meanings are opposites. For example left can mean departed or remaining, and sanction can mean permit or punish.

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