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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 ?
Tolson's "ethnic" amendment of it, and adds sex, gender, and sexual orientation to the mix, so that her polysemous language can no longer be reduced to the structure of irony.
(21) I have treated Descartes" deployment of metaphors in the Discourse, as a strategy of containing and domesticating the problems raised by Montaigne's highly figural and polysemous language, more extensively elsewhere (Melehy 1997, 91-122).