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Is there a better alternative to ambiguous for a word with a wide range of meanings, difficult to find, because they become different in connection with person's opinion.

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'Fallacious' is not relevant to 'a wide range of meanings'. It means 'wrong'. – Mitch Apr 24 '12 at 16:36
See also: – Michael Durrant Oct 4 '14 at 18:40

5 Answers 5

Polysemy - "a diversity of meanings"

A word is polysemous if it has a diversity of meanings.

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If a word is used in a sentence and the meaning of that word in that sentence is not obvious, I would say the sentence is ambiguous, rather than saying the word is ambiguous. For example, "I overlooked the valley." (Did you look at it, or completely miss noticing it?) or "Man was here first" (Was a man here before a woman, or was mankind here before an animal?)

A word is polysemous if it has multiple meanings, but that often doesn't mean ambiguous -- it is almost always easy to determine the meaning of a word from its context.

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However, @Jeremy, I think OP's idea was basically what polysemy denotes. – Kris Apr 24 '12 at 15:22
@Kris could be. It looked to me that he was looking for "sneaky" phrasing. – Jeremy Apr 24 '12 at 15:25
@Jeremy - Polysemous is technical (linguists) use. If the context is not a technical one, then readers are very likely to be confused or at least taken aback. However, in 'normal' speaking, no one would have the slightest clue what you're talking about if you say 'polysemous'. – user19148 Apr 24 '12 at 15:49
"a word with a wide range of meanings, difficult to find, because they become different in connection with person's opinion." Polysemy describes it perfectly, because depending on the person, it could have any of a range of meanings. – Nick Anderegg Apr 25 '12 at 5:19


is a good single word to describe a word having multiple meanings. 'Polysemous' is the technically correct word but is jargon for linguists.

Other words for indicating that one meaning has not been specified are



but they aren't specifically about multiple meanings.

But one can be direct and just say 'That word has multiple meanings'.

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Not a single word, but "open to interpretation" is a phrase that means what you're trying to say.

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Another technical term for this is polysemantic, which means having multiple meanings.

Source: (originally from Princeton WordNet). A related noun could be polysemant (same source).


Intelligence is a polysemantic word.

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This has the makings of a good answer; you could improve it by including references or examples to back up your assertion. (I know we could look the word up ourselves in this case, but it's a good habit and is often seen as a requirement for authoritative contributions here. You'll be given a bit more slack with comments.) – JHCL Oct 9 at 14:21
@JHCL Updated my answer. – A.P. Oct 9 at 14:35

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