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Certainly! English is full of words with multiple meanings. Let’s explore some examples.If you’re engaged in online English learning, you’re likely aware of the language’s challenges. It involves numerous phrasal verbs, irregular conjugations, and unpredictable pronunciation rules. Additionally, identical spellings and pronunciations don’t guarantee identical meanings. For instance, having a “novel idea” doesn’t imply it comes from a storybook; instead, it signifies originality. To navigate such nuances, you can rely on context or explore our guide to words that share spellings but differ in meanings.

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What do you call words with multiple meanings? 

Homographs, which are two words spelled the same but with different meanings, may or may not have distinct pronunciations.

Homonyms, on the other hand, refer to words that are both spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings. Let’s explore examples of each category below:

Here is a word that has more than one meaning:

 Date

as a noun: the day of the month or year
We still haven’t set a date for the ceremony.

as a verb: to show the age of something
This food at this restaurant is delicious but the old-fashioned décor really dates it.

Engage

as a verb: to be involved in some work or an activity
The students hope to engage in a lively discussion with the visiting professor.

as an adjective: to have formally agreed to marry someone
The engaged couple shared the good news with their friends and family.

Leave

as a verb: to go away from somewhere
Ali leaves for Delhi soon.

as a verb: to remain
The ink will leave a stain on my shirt.

as a verb: to deposit or deliver
The delivery person leaves Sharmila’s parcels with her neighbor.

as a noun: to be absent from work or duty
Gunjan is at home on leave today. She will not be attending the meeting.

 Novel

as a noun: a prose, fictionalized narrative in the form of a book that often tells a complex
story with characters and action
My mother’s novel about three generations of women from a small town has won the National Book Award this year.

as an adjective: something that is unique and interesting
I discovered a novel way to spend less money and save more

Park

as a noun: a public garden or area for recreation
I am taking my children to play in the park today.

as a verb: to bring a car or vehicle to a stop for a period of time
We are leaving for the concert now so that we get a good spot to park the car.

Right

as an adjective: morally fair, good or proper
The right thing to do now would be to apologize for your mistake.

as a noun: morally right or just.
He doesn’t seem to understand the difference between right and wrong.

as a noun: something one has legal or moral claim to
As a citizen of this country I have voting rights.

as a noun: the direction or location of something
If you look to your right, you will see the Museum of Natural History.

Run

as a verb: to move faster than while walking
Don’t run down the street, that’s dangerous!

as a verb: to go somewhere in urgency or distress (not literally “running”, necessarily)
Even as an adult, I run to my mother with all my problems.

as a verb: to contend in a race of some kind
I intend to run for President four years from now.

as a noun: a continuous spell of a something
Souvik has a had a run of bad luck this year.

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The importance of context when using words with multiple meanings

Recognizing the significance of context is essential when dealing with words that have multiple meanings. Context plays a pivotal role, and if it’s not evident, it may result in confusion and misinterpretation. Take the word “bank,” for instance, which can signify a financial institution or, in a different context, the side of a river. Ensuring clarity in the context of your communication is crucial to prevent misunderstandings.

 

Exercises to improve your understanding

Enhancing your comprehension of words with multiple meanings can be achieved by constructing sentences that showcase different meanings of a specific word. Consider the word “bear,” which can denote an animal or convey the idea of tolerating or enduring. Crafting sentences like “The bear in the forest is huge” and “I can’t bear the thought of another lockdown” illustrates these diverse meanings. Another effective activity is playing a “guess the meaning” game, where you provide sentences containing a word with multiple meanings and ask others to identify the intended definition. This engaging approach facilitates vocabulary expansion and skill improvement in using words with varied meanings accurately.

Words with multiple meanings: Annoying but also pretty funny  

Indeed, the English language can be intricate, boasting nearly double the number of words compared to many Latin-based languages. The complexity is further compounded by the prevalence of multiple meanings for numerous common words, potentially causing frustration. However, the multifaceted nature of the language also serves as a wellspring of humor. In English, crafting jokes that exploit the dual meanings of a word is remarkably straightforward and contributes to the comedic richness of the language.

What is your English level?

Find out your A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 level of English with our quick, free online test.