6 English Words With Multiple Meanings

English words with different meanings

Over a million words make up the English language.

Sounds like a lot right? But its actually way more, if you consider that many words have multiple meanings. In English we often use words that sound exactly the same to express totally different concepts, these are called homophones. We also use words that have the same spelling but have different meanings depending on the context, these are called homonyms. And if that’s not confusing enough, we also have homographs – which are words that have the same spelling, but different pronunciation (and meaning).

What can I do to make things easier?

Having a ready database of homonyms, homophones and homographs is essential to communicating properly in English. There are many instances where you cannot avoid using a word that seems identical to another, different word, for example read and read: They look exactly the same, but the pronunciation changes the tense completely! And that’s not where it ends!

English words can have different meanings depending on the part of speech – The word ‘keep’ can be a verb or a noun, and the word ‘fancy’ could be an adjective or a verb depending where you’re from!

As a student this makes the English language seem impossibly frustrating and confusing! Take a look at the image that shows how many different ways we can use common words like ‘run’ and ‘take’! Below that you’ll find 6 more handy words that have more than one meaning:

words multiple meanings

10 English words with multiple meanings


Current

noun: Used as a noun ‘current’ refers to a flow of water or electricity, e.g. : The current of the Indian Ocean flows west.

adjective: Used as an adjective we use the word ‘current’ to describe something modern, trendy or happening now e.g. : The current trend in Education is learning online.


Bark

verb: The verb ‘to bark’ is the sound a dog makes e.g. The dog must be hungry! He keeps barking!

noun: The noun ‘bark’ is what we call the the outer covering of a tree e.g. The bark of a palm tree is very rough.


Tie

noun: You most commonly come across this noun very often –  a tie is the very common item of clothing that men wear around their neck with a shirt and suit e.g. Our company policy is for men to wear a shirt and tie to business meetings.

verb: This is the action of joining two things together by using a knot or band e.g. If you don’t tie your shoelaces you will trip and fall!


Break

verb: To damage or change something so that it no longer works e.g. I broke my watch I need to get it repaired.

noun: A recess or pause in an activity, usually used as time to relax e.g. We’ve been working all morning, let’s take a coffee break.


Play

noun: A performance by actors usually shown in theatres e.g. We’re going to Broadway to watch that famous play!

verb: To have a good time or do a specific activity (play sport, play a musical instrument) e.g. I love playing tennis in my free time!


Rose

verb: This is the irregular past simple form of the verb ‘to rise’, which means to move upwards e.g. we rose from our seats when the President walked in.

noun: A special type of flower that is famous for its beautiful shape and smell, usually given on romantic occasions e.g. My boyfriend sent me a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day!


There are thousands more English words with multiple meanings! If you feel nervous about learning them all, just remember that context is key! Usually you will naturally be able to figure out which version of the word is being used simply by listening carefully to the subject of the conversation! Start paying attention to these words – how many multiple meanings can you come across?

Online English teacher

Jake Borland

I am a passionate language teacher based in Dubai, and love the idea of helping helping people improve their English online. With over 10 years experience in teaching English, I am now looking to take my training skills to the next level with Speak Institute by creating online content and developing online training course. Get in touch with me if you have any questions.

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Jake has been helping people learn English for over 10 years. He believes that everyone should access to quality and affordable education. He worked in Europe and the Middle East as a freelance corporate language trainer before opening his own institute in Dubai in 2013.

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