Definition of polysemy in English:


Syllabification: po·ly·se·my
Pronunciation: /ˈpäliˌsemē


The coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase.
More example sentences
  • For my part, therefore, I am inclined to see features of both monosemy and polysemy in a word's semantic structure.
  • In doing this, lexicographers generally take the view that homonymy relates to different words whose forms have converged while polysemy relates to one word whose meanings have diverged or radiated.
  • Valéry puts to work the regulated polysemy of the word ‘capital’.


early 20th century: from poly- 'many' + Greek sēma 'sign'.



Pronunciation: /ˌpäliˈsēmik/
More example sentences
  • These pairs often display regular polysemic relations, i.e. they constitute systematic sense combinations that are valid for more than one word.
  • The rich polysemic nature of Kanak languages, some intricately entwined with Polynesian vocabularies, testify to these congruences of aquatic and terrestrial meaning.
  • This obscurity might be the reverse of their fruitfully polysemic character: only dead terms can be univocally defined!


Pronunciation: /ˌpäliˈsēməs/
More example sentences
  • There should be a way of saying that there is one polysemous lexeme with limitations on how you can use its singular.
  • They may, however, be put off by homographs and polysemous words, such as the various uses of bank and crane.
  • It might be unclear, in any given case, whether a word should be regarded as polysemous or monosemous.

Definition of polysemy in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day rebuff
Pronunciation: rəˈbəf
reject (someone or something) in an abrupt manner…