Many words with multiple meanings exist in the English language. Technically, almost every word has a multiple meaning. How often do you go into the dictionary to look up a word, and find that only one meaning is listed next to it? Practically never! Many words have slightly varying meanings, or they can be used as different parts of speech. However, we will primarily focus on words that have multiple meanings in a broader sense.
When we start talking about words with multiple meanings, there are some basic definitions that we need to discuss first. Those defintions are the ones attached to homonyms, homophones, and homographs.
Homonyms are words which have the same spelling and pronounciation, but have different meanings.
Homophones are words which have the same pronounication, but different spellings and meanings.
Homographs are words that are spelt the same, but have different pronounications and meanings.
Since the topic of words with multiple meanings is so broad, we will cover examples from each of these three unique areas. What follows are lists of homonyms, homophones, and homographs, and an explanation as to why each word belongs in that category if it is not apparent from the spellings.
crane: That bird is a crane./They had to use a crane to lift the object./She had to crane her neck to see the movie.
date: Her favorite fruit to eat is a date./Joe took Alexandria out on a date.
engaged: They got engaged on March 7th./The students were very engaged in the presentation.
foil: Please wrap the sandwich in foil./They learned about the role of a dramatic foil in English class.
leaves: The children love to play in the leaves./They do not like when their father leaves for work.
net: What was your net gain for the year?/Crabbing is easier if you bring a net along.
point: The pencil has a sharp point./It is not polite to point at people.
right: You were right./Make a right turn at the light.
rose: My favorite flower is a rose./He quickly rose from his seat.
type: He can type over 100 words per minute./That dress is really not her type.
read: She is going to read the book later./He read the book last night.
bass: They caught a bass./His voice belongs in the bass section.
bow: She put a bow in her daughter's hair./Please bow down to the emperor.
minute: That is only a minute problem./Wait a minute!
learned: The class learned that information last week./He is a very learned individual.
sewer: The rats crept through the sewer./She is a fine sewer.
wound: They wound up the toy as soon as they got it./She received a wound from the punch.
does: He does his homework every night./There were many does in the forest.
wind: The wind swept up the leaves./Wind the clock up before you go to bed.
sow: A sow is a female pig./We'll sow the seeds in springtime.
Using Words with Multiple Meanings
Pay extra attention to your writing and speaking when you are using any of these words! Using the wrong form could entirely change the meaning of what you are trying to say.