One of my recent reads (or rather, still a current read) – Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen – is teaching me cool words. First, the book uses many words of Irish dialect, and from the first time I read a book using Irish dialect (don’t recall when or which book), I was hooked. Second, I found myself learning other words that I hadn’t encountered before, and further, when I looked at the meaning of those words, I discovered that Gallen has used them in a cool way indeed! This led me to checking out the many wonderful ways to use words, all those wondrous words we already know and the new ones we learn each day!
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And I discovered that yes, there are simply, sometimes, infinitely,…
Many Wonderful Ways to Use Words
Did you know that some of the really common English words have hundreds of meanings? Yes, hundreds. And we unconsciously use them in many of those ways without even realizing it. Here are five words with multiple meanings. And I wonder: When polysemy is possible, why not peace? Right?
Note: polysemy is the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase.
Run is currently in the running, or well, far ahead of other words in the running, for the word with the most meanings, 645 according to this article on NPR! However, you will not find “run” listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for this accomplishment, since for that to happen, it has to get listed with that many meanings in the OED, and the next OED is expected earliest in 2034.
I better run out to the parking lot before the time runs out on the meter!
So ‘set’ is the official world record holder for the word with the most meanings (430 of them) in the Guinness Book at this time (reason – it is the one in the current/second edition of the OED having the most meanings)!
Can you set the table before Nadal wins the next set? If you do so, I will give you a surprise reward!
With 343 meanings listed in the OED, “take” is impressive indeed. Take for example, the cool ways we can use it. Like,
- We can take pleasure in looking at a picture we took in the last vacation taken by us!
- Or, after a film shoot, I could ask someone, ‘What’s your take on that last take?’
And then there is fall with 264 definitions in the 1989 edition of the OED. Keeping it simple here with
Leaves fall in the fall.
Now this one is a homograph compared to the others on the list, which were all homonyms. That is, different forms of this word take on different pronunciations and also have different meanings. And, it is also not in the top ten list of words with most meanings.
She noticed a note projecting from the book, and on having a glance at it, realized it contained information on the top-secret project Jack was working on!
Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs: One of the Many Wonderful Ways to Use Words
Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation, but often different spellings and meanings. While homonyms have the same sound and the same spelling as well, but different meanings once again. The last one on the list is homographs. These are words that are spelled the same but not necessarily pronounced the same and have different meanings and origins.
Note that there is sometimes an overlap among them; many homophones and homographs are homonyms as well; while some homographs are homonyms and homophones as well!
|words that look alike|
so same spellings
|words that look and sound alike|
so same sound and spelling
|words that sound alike|
so same pronunciation
often different sounds
|different meanings||often different spellings |
|bow: take a bow|
bow: the front of a ship
bow: as in bow and arrows
|bark: the outer layer of a tree|
bark: the sound a dog makes
|bear: the animal|
bear: carry the weight of
bare: uncovered, empty
|minute: 60 minutes in an hour|
minute: tiny, miniscule
|match: a contest, like a boxing match|
match: items like one another
match: used to light a fire
|meat and meet|
The Wondrous Words and Ways to Use Them
In my Wondrous Words post on Wednesday, the 30th of November in 2011, I featured the words transom and folderol. They were both from my current reads at that time. Today, I bring you two words from that current read I mentioned earlier, and one of the words is the one that started it all (or started off my deviation into looking for words with many meanings, and more!)
- foundered (intransitive verb) (source)
- this can mean – to become disabled, like a horse going lame
- or to collapse
- it can also mean – to become submerged, like a ship sinking
- or to fail at something (like ‘The company foundered after a bad quarter of sales’)
- gulder (n): to shout loudly or crudely (source)
Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love. Feel free to get creative! It was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion and is now hosted at Elza Reads.
- Word Play and its Wonders
- Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: I loved this book when I read it earlier this year, and keep dipping back into it every so often!
- The Know-Nonsense Guide to Grammar: An Awesomely Fun Guide to the Way We Use Words! Check out my review of the book here. This one is a part of an awesome series of guides.
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, which word appeals most to you? What is your most recent “word-discovery”? Or, can you tell me one of the many wonderful ways to use words that has caught your eye recently?
4 thoughts on “Many Wonderful Ways to Use Words”
I collect words. I especially enjoy being surrounded by a culture of new words such as when I read a book filled with the vocabulary of a specific culture. I’m reading Dubliners now, and that’s what is happening.
This post is so interesting. It’s like a fun mini English class.
This is a brilliant post and I am so going to use it at school with the kids. I never knew that run, set and take had so many different meanings. The kids are going to love it!
Thanks for taking part in WWW!
Have a wonderful week ahead Vidya!
This is so informative and I wish I’d be able to remember the different terminology for each of those types of words. As I read it, it’s all familiar to me, but I’m too far out of school and those kinds of things just don’t ‘stick’ anymore. Who knew there were SO many definitions for run? Or for any of the examples. Crazy.
Thanks for sharing this informative post!
Terrie @ Bookshelf Journeys