A lot of words obviously have multiple meanings. Also, a lot of words have synonyms. Are there groups of words that are synonyms for multiple meanings?

For instance, say word A has Definition A1, Definition A2, Definition A3. Word B has Definition B1, Definition B2 and Definition B3. These words would be synonyms for "multiple meanings" if for instance Definition A1 = Definition B2 and Definition A3 = Definition B3.

Is there a word for this concept? Also, how common does this happen? Finally, what are some good resources where I find can these kinds of words?

Thank you.

  • You should assume that every word has multiple meanings, and every sense has multiple (near) synonyms. Commented May 20, 2015 at 8:01
  • If you're looking for the word to describe issues with understanding the intended meaning (out of a list of possibilities), you might be looking for "ambiguity".
    – Flater
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 8:24
  • Peers and Peeps are and example of words like this, please see english.stackexchange.com/questions/247985/peers-and-peeps
    – Ben Page
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 13:23
  • If you yourself cannot come up with any concrete examples, e.g. A1 definition is similar to B2's, and A2 is similar to B1's. Then it's likely the phenomena of words sharing "multiple meanings" is rare, or nobody has really done any real research into the matter. May I ask if you need this word for computer programming/games etc.?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 5:04

3 Answers 3


Is there a word for this concept?


Also, how common does this happen?

I am not even aware of a single example. And I just ran through a few homonyms to check. The different meanings are usually so different that finding a synonym of one of them that also has 1. multiple meanings and 2. multiple meanings that match homonyms of the first word seem extremely unlikely.

For example:

- to point at someone (M1)
- the point of a pen (M2)

- the tip of a pen (M2)
- give the waiter a tip (M3)

M1 and M3 are clearly not even close. If you come up with one let us know!

EDIT: It appears Peers and Peeps is an example as Ben mentioned. They have matching definitions for "looks" and "associates/friends".

  • The OP doesn't stipulate homonyms. Maybe the question was edited, but as it stands now, no mention of homonyms. Commented May 20, 2015 at 8:54
  • @BrianHitchcock a word with multiple meanings is called a homonym en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homonym
    – aaa90210
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 9:41
  • 1
    But that's not the situation the OP was talking about. Homonyms are multiple words, each with their own meaning(s), which happen to be spelled and pronounced identically. Any word can have multiple meanings, whether or not it comprises homonyms. And it's that general case that the OP was referring to. Example: COLD can mean low temperature or unwelcoming. ICY can mean frozen or (very) unwelcoming. Not homonyms, but they share similar meanings. Commented May 20, 2015 at 9:56
  • 1
    @BrianHitchcock I very much doubt you comprehended the question correctly. Maybe you should try reading it again. COLD and ICY are TWO DIFFERENT words that happen to share a SIMILAR meaning. That has nothing to do with homonyms or the OP question. The second paragraph of his question was very explicit and my answer is correct with regard to it.
    – aaa90210
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 10:15
  • I re-read the second paragraph. I stand by everything I said. Let the OP decide whether "homonym" stuff is germane to his question. Commented May 20, 2015 at 10:31

There are two relevant terms because this concept is involved in communication and in creative thinking. Both terms continue to be used even though perfection, 1:1, (should that be 3:3) may never be achieved in either field.

  1. Translation; not only into foreign languages, but also patois, dialect, tenor for each audience.

  2. Analogy; where choice of a word, say, Aquaculture, directs attention to aspects of Agriculture that should be addressed by those involved in fish production. Poetry, Industry, Research test homonyms to see if they yield analogies.


Is there a word for this concept? Also, how common does this happen? Finally, what are some good resources where I find can these kinds of words?

There is a phrase that refers to a word that can be substitutes to another word in all possible contexts:

perfect synonym

but it is generally agreed that no such word exist, since nobody has been able to find one.

This doesn't exclude the remote possibility that one perfect synonym exists. The problem is more complex if you consider that any word has

That's why it is nearly impossible that a perfext synonym, a word that can substitute another 'synonym' in all contexts, can be found.

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