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Having or characterized by many meanings, as the words play and table.

[From Late Latin polysēmus, from Greek polusēmos : polu-, poly- + sēma, sign.]

pol′y·se′my (pŏl′ē-sē′mē, pə-lĭs′ə-) n.


(ˌpɒlɪˈsiːmɪ; pəˈlɪsəmɪ)
(Linguistics) the existence of several meanings in a single word. Compare monosemy
[C20: from New Latin polysēmia, from Greek polusēmos having many meanings, from poly- + sēma a sign]
ˌpolyˈsemous, polysemic, polyseme adj


(ˈpɒl iˌsi mi, pəˈlɪs ə mi)

diversity of meanings.
[< French polysémie (1897) < Late Latin polysēm(us) with many meanings (< Greek polýsēmos)]
pol`y•se′mous, adj.


a diversity of meanings for a given word.
See also: Language
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.polysemy - the ambiguity of an individual word or phrase that can be used (in different contexts) to express two or more different meanings
equivocalness, ambiguity - unclearness by virtue of having more than one meaning
monosemy - having a single meaning (absence of ambiguity) usually of individual words or phrases


[pɒˈlɪsəmɪ] Npolisemia f
References in periodicals archive ?
Semantic change such as polysemy is the most plausible explanation for Faramir's failure to communicate anything more specific than "terror" to Frodo and Sam.
272, italics in original), he suggests that polysemy and multiple players can overcome it.
Synopsis: "The Good of Recognition" analyzes the polysemy of recognition operative in the thought of two contemporary French thinkers, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) and Paul Ricreur (1913-2005).
Polysemy, even the simultaneous implication of near opposites, recurred throughout Smith's exhibition.
1890) as a parallel means of negotiating contact and conflict by an artist who was witnessing first-hand encounters of startling newness, and resolving this in subtle pictures of dense polysemy.
The polysemy of la in French, which Flaubert used, is important.
Patients with dyspraxia have developed polysemy to an extreme extent, all lexical items of their speech are loaded with numerous interrelated meanings, and therewith the logic of creating relations may differ from common reasoning.
Resource saving of British-American idiomatic system is achieved by the following strategies: 1) alliteration, assonance; 2) 2-word idioms; 3) parallel constructions; 4) repetitions; 5) polysemy and synonymy; 6) decomposition of proverbs and sayings; 7) borrowings from other languages and literary works of English-writing authors; 8) simple verb forms in habitual aspect, rather than verb forms in continuous or perfect aspects, which require an auxiliary verb and a verb.
Zukofsky's polysemy and punning compress multiple references in an instant, and require the reader to unpack them--expanding the flash of the poetic word into the open-ended reading process.
It was valued as a cerebral activity whose aesthetic legitimacy was grounded in complexity and polysemy.
The polysemy of "mask" introduces into the Internet discourse an element of play and even virtual masquerade, which is manifested in various types of faking, dupery and leg pulls, the virtual space being a perfect place for their implementation due to its openness and anonymity.
Metaprofit therefore means "going beyond profit," but in a felicitous polysemy it can also connote "what comes with profit.