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A word with a wide range of meanings

Is there a word that describes a situation where someone says something that has multiple meanings? or can be taken multiple ways.

An example that comes to mind is when someone is being both serious and sarcastic, and they could be taken either way or both ways.


Person X: Why do you work in the dark?

Person Y: I like the dark side.


The meanings above are clear and not unclear, or at least if you disagree then please provide a better example.


It's a double entendre:

A double entendre is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first (more obvious) meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so: often risqué or ironic.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a double entendre as especially being used to "convey an indelicate meaning." It is often used to express potentially offensive opinions without the risks of explicitly doing so.

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  • I think of this as "this thing ['x'] actually means (or can be mistakenly thought of) as that thing ['y']" so it is more specific than the 'multiple meanings' that the OP stated. – Michael Durrant Jun 22 '12 at 17:04
  • I think this is the right label for this, if there are just two meanings. And it seems that with a double-entendre, the speaker is usually intentional about the double meaning. (My American Heritage Dictionary hyphenates the word: double-entendre.) – JLG Jun 22 '12 at 17:11
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    "Double entendre" normally means that the alternate meaning is related to sex, usually in some inappropriate context, and usually intended to be humorous or insulting. As Michael says, that's a subset of ambiguous expressions. – Jay Jun 22 '12 at 17:15

The term for this is "ambiguous".

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  • I think the meaning in my question is clear, and not unclear which is difference from the question that people have marked my question a duplicate of.. – erikvold Jun 22 '12 at 18:14

Perhaps amphiboly is what you are looking for. See the corresponding Wiki link.

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  • I think with amphiboly the purpose is to mislead? In my question I think the purpose is absolutely not to mislead, but instead to be extremely clear in as few words as possible. – erikvold Jun 22 '12 at 18:19
  • I hadn't heard of amphiboly before tho, so thanks for that interesting answer! – erikvold Jun 22 '12 at 18:20

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