One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
The coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase.
- ‘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.’
- ‘For my part, therefore, I am inclined to see features of both monosemy and polysemy in a word's semantic structure.’
- ‘Literariness was not merely the quality that distinguished poetics from pragmatics, it was the guarantee and promise of linguistic richness, of polysemy.’
- ‘Valéry puts to work the regulated polysemy of the word ‘capital’.’
- ‘All the words for actual (kinds of) snow have been removed, and I'm ignoring the extensive polysemy of snow and many of its derivatives.’
Early 20th century: from poly- ‘many’ + Greek sēma ‘sign’.
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