What is the term used for a phrase that could have more than one meaning such as "This battery is free of charge"?

3 Answers 3



  • the characteristic of having more than one possible interpretation or meaning (AHD)


  • a sentence or phrase (as “nothing is good enough for you”) that can be interpreted in more than one way. (M-W)

  • the use of ambiguous phrases or such as can be construed in two senses. A good example is Shakespeare's 'The duke yet lives that Henry shall depose' (Henry VI).( Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary)


  • Gr. amfibolos ambiguous + logos speech.
  • 2
    Hmmm. Amphibology is one I'd never heard before. (Now to see if I can remember it next time I need it.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 21:02
  • @HotLicks Sounds like surgery to me. 'No, you're not amputating my bology - not on your life'.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 21:27
  • @WS2 - Sounds like a frog to me.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 21:30
  • Double entendre: a word, phrase, etc, that can be interpreted in two ways, esp one having one meaning that is indelicate
  • Pun: a play on words, sometimes on different senses of the same word and sometimes on the similar sense or sound of different words.
  • Play of words: a pun or the act of punning
  • 2
    I know the 3rd example as "play on words" (I'm from US Midwest). Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 20:41
  • 2
    play on words also suggests that the ambiguity is used in a humorous way.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 20:50
  • @KristinaLopez I'm from eastern England and I too know the third example as a play on words - I think most people do.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 21:20
  • None of your examples are, in my view, particularly apt to the example sentence given. The first is normally used to describe an indecorous joke, the second and third a smart-Alec witticism. The case in question is a straightforward accidental ambiguity.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 21:23

Ambiguous means that a phrase can have more than one meaning


Does this help.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.