• synonyms


[pol-ee-see-mee, puh-lis-uh-mee]
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  1. a condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation.
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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 formspol·y·se·mous, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for polysemous


  1. the existence of several meanings in a single wordCompare monosemy
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Derived Formspolysemous, adjective

Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for polysemous


1884, from Medieval Latin polysemus, from Greek polysemos "of many sides" (see polysemy).

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1900, from French polysémie (1897), from Medieval Latin polysemus, from Greek polysemos "of many senses," from poly- (see poly-) + sema "sign" (see semantic). Related: Polysemic.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper