The English language abounds with words with double meanings. We call these words homonyms or homographs.
What is the difference between the two?
Homonyms are words with the same spelling or similar pronunciation that have different meanings.
Whereas homographs are words that are spelled identically but have different meanings.
We will look at various words with double meanings, in both homonym and homograph categories.
Here’s the list, with definitions for each word, as well as some examples of its usage.
23 Words with Double Meanings
Here are a few great examples of words with double meanings in the English vocabulary in alphabetical order:
This could refer to a part of the body, particularly the two upper limbs of humans or primates. Or it could denote a branch or division of an organization, say a marketing arm.
It could also mean picking up or supplying with weapons. Example: “The soldiers moved in haste to arm themselves with swords and shields.”
This describes a dog’s manner of speaking, but could also mean speaking in a curt, loud, and angry tone. “Did the dog bark?” is an example of the former, while “The drill sergeant barks orders to the platoon” is an example of the latter.
The rugged exterior layer covering a tree’s trunk is also known as bark.
This could refer to a small cosmetic case of compressed powder or describe a dense structure or closely packed unit.
It could also define a complex object that occupies little space, e.g., a compact camera or compact keyboard. An agreement between two or more parties can also be called a compact. Example: “The Spanish general and the chief of the natives agree to a blood compact.”
This could be the date fruit (Phoenix dactylifera) or a time at which an event occurs, as in, “the date of their wedding anniversary.”
It could also refer to a social engagement, like going on a date with someone. Or it could describe the person someone is going out with, like, “He asked her to be his date for the prom.”
A desert is an arid land with sparse vegetation, often devoid of water, desolate, and hot. That same word could mean “to leave” with no intent to return, as seen in the abandonment of military duty without leave or justification.
Did you know it could also mean “deserved reward or punishment”? When used this way, it is often in the plural form as in, “the perpetrators got their just deserts.”
A reduction made from a regular price or expected debt is called a discount, as seen in “discount sales.”
It could also mean “to minimize the importance of something” or “to leave it out of account.” For example, “We should discount the possibility of another Napoleon ever arising.”
This refers to a minute quantity or degree of something intangible, as in, “a drop of water” or “not a drop of dignity left in her.”
It could also refer to the act of falling or descending, as in “drop the cup” or “a price drop.” It is also used to describe “ceasing to be of concern” or “to discontinue,” as in, “drop the case.”
This could describe a formal agreement to marry between two persons, as in betrothed. This could also define someone busy, as in “She is engaged in a phone call at the moment.”
It could also indicate great interest in something, being physically involved in a hostile environment, or being in gear when driving.
This could refer to a place of entry or an act of entering conspicuously.
An example sentence for the first one is “I will meet you at the entrance of the cinema”, while for the second one is “The bride and groom prepare for a grand entrance at the reception.”
This could be the act of descending freely to the ground through gravitational force, or it could refer to the loss of high statuses, such as “a fall from grace.”
It could also describe a musical cadence or a season in the year. Committing an immoral act could also be called a fall, like a “fall into sin.”
This is the plural of the word foot, which refers to the lower extremities of humans or animals. It could also mean the lower part of an object on which it stands.
Feet is also a unit of measurement in the English system, which is equal to 12 inches. For example, “the grave was 6 feet deep.”
This, of course, is the typical response to “how are you,” which could mean healthy or without any problem. It could also describe something of high quality, like “fine wine.”
It could also mean very tiny grains, like “fine sand”, or the sum imposed as a penalty for an offense. For example, “You have to pay the fine for crossing the red light”.
As a homograph, it marks the closing point in music after a repeat.
The floor is the level base of a room or the ground surface of a place. It could also mean bringing down, like in the middle of an argument, or speeding up while driving, as in “You got to floor the accelerator if you want to catch up with him.”
It could also refer to the right to address an assembly, as in “take the floor.”
This refers to something that elicits laughter or that seeks to amuse. It could also describe something suspicious or differing from the norm, as in, “I hear a funny noise in the house.”
It may also mean something that involves trickery, like a cop telling a suspect, “Do not try to do anything funny.”
This could refer to the letters of the alphabet or a written message addressed to someone. We can also use it for very specific instructions, such as “follow the manual to the letter”.
Did you know? The one who rents or leases an item is called a letter.
This could mean resting in a horizontal position, or the act of making an untrue statement.
As a noun, it refers to the untrue or inaccurate statement made by a speaker or writer.
This is a homograph. It could refer to a unit of time, which is equal to 60 seconds, or something minuscule or infinitesimal.
The summary of a meeting or event, written as notes, is also called a minute.
This refers to an inanimate thing you can see or touch or a person or thing to which you direct action or feeling. For example, “the object of my affection.”
It could also mean to oppose, as in, “I object to such treatment.”
To refuse something is to express unwillingness to do or accept it. You could refuse a gift or a person’s affection.
It also describes trash or the useless part of something.
The pretty flower must be the first thing that comes to mind when we hear this word. Well, it is that, but it could also mean other things.
It is also the past tense of “rise.” It can also mean a color that is described as a warm pink or light crimson color.
It indicates the number two position, or what comes after first. It is also used to proclaim support, as in “I second that opinion.”
The word second also refers to the fundamental unit of time in the International System of Units.
This describes a sea vessel. It also refers to the act of transporting products by various means, such as by sea or by air.
Informally, it refers to the act of wishfully putting two people you want to be romantically involved together.
It could mean a variety of things, like “your blood type,” or “the type of clothes you want to wear.” It also refers to the act of writing with a keyboard or typewriter.
It could also imply someone you are (or are not) attracted to, like, “She is exactly my type!”
Hundreds of words have the same spelling but different meanings and sometimes different pronunciations. We hope this list has reminded you of some.
Do not forget the difference between homonyms and homographs—all the best with using these words where they fit.
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