[ pol-ee-see-mee, puh-lis-uh-mee ]
/ ˈpɒl iˌsi mi, pəˈlɪs ə mi /


a condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation.

Origin of polysemy

1895–1900; < New Latin polysēmia, equivalent to Late Latin polysēm(us) with many significations (< Greek polýsēmos, equivalent to poly- poly- + sêm(a) sign + -os adj. suffix) + -ia -y3

Related forms

pol·y·se·mous, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for polysemous


/ (ˌpɒlɪˈsiːmɪ, pəˈlɪsəmɪ) /


the existence of several meanings in a single wordCompare monosemy

Derived Forms

polysemous, adjective

Word Origin for polysemy

C20: from New Latin polysēmia, from Greek polusēmos having many meanings, from poly- + sēma a sign
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012