Difference Between Polysemy and Homonymy

Main Difference – Polysemy vs Homonymy

Polysemy and Homonymy are two similar concepts in linguistics. Both of them refer to words having multiple meanings. Polysemy refers to the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase. Homonymy refers to the existence of two or more words having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins. This is the main difference between polysemy and homonymy.Difference Between Polysemy and Homonymy - infographic

What is Polysemy

Polysemy refers to words or phrases with different, but related meanings. A word becomes polysemous if it can be used to express different meanings. The difference between these meanings can be obvious or subtle. It is sometimes difficult to determine whether a word is polysemous or not because the relations between words can be vague and unclear. But, examining the origins of the words can help to decide whether a word is polysemic or homonymous.

The following sentences contain some examples of polysemy.

He drank a glass of milk.

He forgot to milk the cow.

The enraged actor sued the newspaper.

He read the newspaper.

His cottage is near a small wood.

The statue was made out of a block of wood.

He fixed his hair.

They fixed a date for the wedding.

Main Difference - Polysemy vs Homonymy

Wood

Although the meanings of the underlined word pairs only have a subtle difference. The origins of the words are related. Such words are generally listed in dictionaries under one entry; numbers may be used to denote the subtle differences.

What is Homonymy

Homonymy refers to two unrelated words that look or sound the same. Two or more words become homonyms if they either sound the same (homophones), have the same spelling (homographs), or if they both homophones and homographs, but do not have related meanings. Given below are some examples of homonyms:

Stalk

– The main stem of a herbaceous plant

– Pursue or approach stealthily

Sow

– adult female pig

– to plant seeds in a ground

The above two examples are both written and read alike; they have the same spellings and sounds. Some words do not have the same spellings, but they share same the same pronunciation. For example,

Read vs Reed

Right vs Write

Pray vs Prey

Difference Between Polysemy and Homonymy

Stair vs Stare

Difference Between Polysemy and Homonymy

Definition

Polysemy is the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase.

Homonymy is the existence of two or more words having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins.

Meanings

Polysemy has different, yet related meanings.

Homonymy has completely different meanings.

Origins

Polysemy has related word origins.

Homonymy has different origins.

Dictionaries

Polysemous words are listed under one entry in dictionaries.

Homonymous words are listed separately.

Guessing the Meaning

Polysemous words can be understood if you know the meaning of one word.

The meaning of homonymous words cannot be guessed since the words have unrelated meanings.

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


Related pages


difference between end point and equivalent pointbarometric pressure to atmospheric pressuredifference between admission and confessionwhat is the difference between a footnote and a citationwhat happens during cytokinesis in a plant celldiurnal animals for kidsexplain the relationship between mass and inertiawhat is the meaning of boiling pointethics morals differencedefine the concept of assimilationvoltage and watts differencepokemon cards symbolsdifference between castle and palaceocd or ocpdtribute to my grandmotherdifference between ferrous metal and non ferrous metaln hexane structural formulawhat is the difference between turmeric and curcuminmetamorphic rocks factsdef of boiling pointosmolarity and tonicitydefinition of isotonic in biologydefine marginal analysisexaggerations examplesdifferences between alligators and crocodilesdefinition of deoxyriboselife span of neutrophilsmeaning of enunciatedefine amoralitythe difference between maid of honor and matron of honordifference between qualcomm and snapdragon processordifference between a spinal block and epiduralsemantics vs syntax examplesmolecular structure of ribosecentripetal force equationreproduction of eubacteriasoliloquy in dramadefinition novellatuff the outsiderswhat is the difference between proofreading and editingthe differences between aerobic and anaerobic respirationdifference between dolphin and whaleavalanche effect in zener diodewhy gujarat is famoussucrose molecular formulamarket equilibrium formuladifference between hypoglycemia and hyperglycemiadirect titration definitiontypes of passive filtersdifference between cast iron wrought iron and steelwhat does the word avenge meanwhat are the different types of american bulldogssingle double and triple covalent bondspuma and panther differencedefine empirical and molecular formulasharks mammals or fisheuphony definitionmeaning of dawn to duskcoding strand and template strandeligibility for ips officersparkling wine vs champagne differencerelish or chutneydefine gold foil experimentassonance and consonance examplessymbol for methanolenunciation vs pronunciationwhat is damped oscillationwhat is the protoplasmheat conductors and insulatorsdotson the dogwhat are the kinds of adjectivescathode electrolysiscomedy of manners literary definitiondefine duologuecompare and contrast evaporation and boilingdifference between a comma and semicolon