po·​ly·​se·​mous ˌpä-lē-ˈsē-məs How to pronounce polysemous (audio) pə-ˈli-sə-məs How to pronounce polysemous (audio)
variants or polysemic
: having multiple meanings
pə-ˈli-sə-mē How to pronounce polysemous (audio)

Examples of polysemous in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Run takes up half again as much space as its nearest polysemous competitor, put, which itself is far more polysemous than the third word in this list, set. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 June 2022 The wheel is now an omnipresent and polysemous symbol of not only New Age interpretations of Native religions but also pan-Indian ideology. Sierra Crane Murdoch, Harper's Magazine, 3 May 2023 Rounding out the top 10 most polysemous words — each but a single syllable — are, alphabetically, cast, cut, draw, point, serve, strike, and through. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 June 2022 In one of the more extreme polysemous developments, a word can take on an opposite meaning, as dust (v.) can mean to clean up small particles (dust the furniture) or to apply small particles (dust the Bundt cake with powdered sugar). John E. McIntyre, baltimoresun.com, 3 July 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'polysemous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Late Latin polysemus, from Greek polysēmos, from poly- + sēma sign

First Known Use

1884, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of polysemous was in 1884

Dictionary Entries Near polysemous

Cite this Entry

“Polysemous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polysemous. Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

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